10 Misconceptions About Jesus: #5 –Jesus was pierced through His hands

In Ten Misconceptions About Jesus #4, we learned that although both the Bible and tradition tells us that Jesus was a carpenter, the word teknon has a larger semantic range than our word ‘carpenter.’ It’s not actually clear what He did during his twenty year working career.

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Here is misconception number #5:

During the crucifixion, Jesus was pierced through His hands.

I have been in Museums in Germany, France, Spain, Scotland, and, of course, the United States. One thing is consistent: in all of the depictions of the crucifixion, Jesus’ palms were always pierced and nailed to the upper crossbeam.

This is quite natural since the text even mentions Jesus’ pierced hands. In John 20 Thomas makes his famous statement:

“If I don’t see the mark of the nails in His hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe!”” John 20:25 CSB

Jesus, Himself, said this of His own appearance:

“Look at My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself! Touch Me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” Having said this, He showed them His hands and feet.” Luke 24:39-40 CSB

What am I suggesting as an alternative?

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He was pierced through His wrists, not His palms.

Here is the evidence:

First, there is a translation difficulty. The word xeiros, which we translate to ‘hand’ has a wider semantic range. Moreover, not all cultures divide anatomy the same way. Both Matthew and Luke use the word xeiros to describe the use of not just the hands, but the arms as well. In both cases it refers to angels lifting up the Son of Man.

“…for it is written, ‘He will give His angels charge concerning You’; and ‘On their hands they will bear You up, Lest You strike Your foot against a stone” Matthew 4:6 NAS

And the parallel account from Luke:

“…and, ‘On their hands they will bear You up, Lest You strike Your foot against a stone.'”” Luke 4:11 NAS

Although we translate xeiros as hand, it does include the wrists, and sometimes the forearms. Therefore, we could just as easily translate Luke 24:39 like this:

“Look at My wrists and My feet” Luke 24:39

The second piece of evidence is anatomical. The bones and tendons of the hand simply do not have the strength to hold the weight of the body without the nail ripping through. The easiest and strongest place to hammer a nail is through the wrist, between the ulna and radius bones.

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The third piece of evidence comes from pure pragmatism. According to Quintus Curtius Rufus, a Roman historian of the 1st Century, Alexander the Great once had 2,000 men crucified. It was common in the ancient world to crucify many people at one time. It is unlikely that the soldier would take the time to create some of the more decorative ideas to support the palm piercing.

Why would a soldier take the time to wrap each hand in order to pierce the anatomically weak palm?

Why would a soldier take the time to create a seat to help support the body weight, so that the nails would not rip through the weak tendons and bones of the hand?

No, they would have crucified people as quickly and easily as possible. That fastest way was to use three nails: one in each wrist, and one through the ankle. All it took was a few strikes with a hammer, and it was done. No extras were needed.

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Nonetheless, some still support the traditional view.

Here are three arguments that the palms could have been used:

First, the soldiers could have tied or wrapped Jesus’ wrists to the cross beam, and then nailed His palms. This would have successfully alleviated the weight.

But why nail the palms in the first place? To cause pain?

Then why not nail other random areas as well?

In situations like this, pragmatism rules. I work under the assumption that when dealing with multiple criminals, soldiers are going to get the job done the quickest and the most efficient way. Three nails and they’re done. There’s no need for wraps.

Second, Dr. Fred Zugibe’s work The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Forensic Inquiry suggests that if the nail was driven through the palm at an angle, through some of the more meaty portions of the hand, it may have been able to support the body weight needed. I agree, except that, in order to breathe, a criminal would have to do an occasional pull up. That places more weight on the palm, which would be unlikely to hold. This would work if the criminal were not struggling.

Check out this affiliate link to Dr. Fred Zugibe’s book:

Third, a National Geographic Episode entitled Quest for Truth: Crucifixion, proves that a person’s palms can withstand the weight of the ordeal if a seat is provided at the bottom of the cross. I agree that it is possible, but unlikely.

Why would the soldiers build a seat when they could just nail the wrists?

Furthermore, the seats do not solve the pull up problem. Once again, this works for a calm, unmoving person, but not for someone gasping for air and desperately trying to do a pull up.

We’ll never know actually what happened, but the evidence suggests that the wrists were used rather than the palms.

10 Misconceptions about Jesus #1: Jesus’ appearance
10 Misconceptions about Jesus #2: Jesus is the same as He was
10 Misconceptions about Jesus #3: Jesus would never judge anyone
10 Misconceptions about Jesus #4: Jesus was a carpenter
10 Misconceptions about Jesus #5: Jesus was pierced through His hands

Comments

  1. The Shroud of Turin has a better answer! AND I CARE NOT IF THE SHROUD IS A LIE OR NOT IT STILL HAS A BETTER ANSWER!!! 1st GOD knows all & you do not! You web page is full of assumptions. I AM ONLY GOING TO SAY THIS ONCE & PRAY YOU ARE NOT (LIKE SO MANY OTHER HUMANS) GOING TO BE STUBBORN ABOUT YOU ‘ASSUMPTIONS’!
    It is possible to nail a large man to the cross just as the old Testament & the New Testament proclaims! IF you nail through the middle of the HANDS PALM HEEL. God knows all & the human hand has a BONE GROMMET designed as if just for the job of crucifixion thru the middle of the 8-carpal bones of the hands palm heel!!!
    If you are a true Christian then you will get a clue from the evidence that supports this which is the anatomy of the human hand and the ring of bones of the 8-carpal bones of the HEEL OF THE HAND & NOT THRU THE FLESHY PALM as evidenced in the image of the hands in the Shroud of Turin. OK now it is for you to decide to accept this anatomical evidence of the ring of bones of the heel of the HAND or continue to “TRY” and fudge a story that you hope helps others or continue to make up stories of Jesus having to be nailed thru the wrists (LIE). Please do not email me…let this better answer work in you human mind that has made many mistakes before and wonder why you ignore Psalm 118:8 & 9 to buy into assumptions from feeble minds of men.

  2. Chad Johnson says:

    I agree and feel that Christ was a special prisoner to the solders. I think they would have caused as much pain as possible.. for example they made a crown of thorns and made him carry his cross. With that said I have no doubt that they would have been willing to put nails in the hands for pain and then in the wrist to assure that he would stay up on the cross.
    Thanks for the article, keep up the good work.

    • W Garry Jones says:

      Love your answer. Humans love to make a great todo about nothing.

      1 Timothy 3 (NIV)
      He appeared in a body,
      was vindicated by the Spirit,
      was seen by abgels,
      was preached among nations,
      was believed on in the world,
      was taken up in glory.

  3. The Bible says none of Jesus bones were broken in this whole ordeal in order to fulfill the prophesy referring to Jesus’ crucifixion by comparing him to the sacrificial lamb animal which was to be perfect and without blemish and its bones left unbroken. This is a foreshadowing of Jesus’ coming, crucifixion, suffering, and death.
    So… if none of his bones were broken… it is most logical to assume that in order to keep this prophecy this is how it went down:

    1. They hammered the nails/spikes INTO the flesh BETWEEN his finger bones and not into his heel of his palm or his wrist or into the finger bones.
    2. They also TIED HIM UP by the wrists and or arms in order to keep the nails/spikes from ripping through the flesh of his hand and him falling down off the cross.
    3. This WAS done this way intentionally to make him suffer and so the prophecy would be fulfilled and kept that NONE of his bones were broken, namely even the bones in his hands or wrists or palm.

    We know for a fact the Roman soldiers in charge of beating him, spitting and reviling him, and crucifying him HATED Jesus with a feirce passion because satan was in them and they did not believe. So of COURSE if they can flog him til he cant walk, beat up his face and strike him to where he is barely recognizable, AND spit and revile him and mock him and press a crown of thorns onto his head, of COURSE they would seek to make his crucifixion on his cross AS PAINFUL and as LONG DRAWN OUT as much as possible.

    Hence the tying of the rope or the fashioning of a step below his feet for him to stand on so they would pierce him through the hand breaking NONE of his bones as the prophecy said while also keeping him up there steadfast so the job would get done. They didnt CARE about his pain or suffering. They WANTED him to suffer.

    They didnt care about ANY of those criminals pains or sufferings as they hated them all but they especially hated JESUS the most. And the prophecy of no broken bones HAD to be fulfilled. To drive a nail through his palm, finger bones, or his wrist would cause the nail to be driven THROUGH his bones and possibly even to BREAK them in the process. So the nail had to go into the flesh BETWEEN the finger bones into his hand. This is the only way it could be done according to scripture.

    The Romans wouldnt “get it done as quickly as possible” and the fact that you state a question about them wanting him to suffer questioning it instead of KNOWING they DID want him to suffer greatly, shows just how much you know of the story of Jesus crucifixion, death, and punishment or rather just how LITTLE you know of it and what knowledge of it you are lacking.

    God bless. Read the story better and you will understand all I have said is truth.

  4. Judy Street says:

    The Bible clearly states that Jesus was pierced through the palms of His hands. Zech. 13:6; John 20:27; Luke24:39,40; Isaiah 49:14,15,16 are just a few proofs. Anything I am hearing so far is supposition and not backed up with It Is Written. The KJV is the only dependable source of information. Jesus is the word of God and everyone will find the truth written there. The writers were there and saw the event first hand. I will believe in the inspired word of God as directed by the Holy Spirit

    • Not trying to debate with you, but the author made a point of talking about how the translations could mean hands, wrist, and forearm.
      I think it’s important we not get hung-up on what the English version of the Bible says (even if it repeats itself). We can believe the Bible is all true, but also understand it was originally written in a language that has a lot more a ambiguity than English does.
      As far as the KJV being the only reliable source, that is neither factually, intellectually, or historically true. And it’s honestly weird to think that way in 2016. It was written in Shakespeare’s time, and if anything is far LESS inclined to contain accurate interpretations of the original text. It’s certainly more traditional than the other versions. It also has a rich history and beautiful story behind its translation. But more RELIABLE? I think not.

  5. This discussion is comical to say the least. The Romans NEVER crucified ANYONE by nailing their hands or their wrists. Do any of you even study history at all? They simply tied their arms to the posts. That’s it. Nailing someone by their hands or wrists would certainly not hold the body weight either. The account from the Gospel of John is fiction.

    • Also keep in mind that the Romans did not crucify common criminals, especially in the case of Jesus where he had not even been convicted of breaking a Roman law. The Romans reserved crucifixion for those convicted of treason and crimes against the state, not common criminals.

  6. One of the most interesting things is the bible clearly states that not a single bone was broken on Jesus. Not one! The hand has 27 bones and the foot is crazy with bones, too. If his hands were nailed according to tradition the bones in his hands would have been crushed and broken, and his feet. In both cases the tent nails would have had to be placed where no bones could break.

    This implies that, in both cases, hand and foot, the nails would be placed higher unless, of course, we nullify Scripture and argue that Christ’s bones were, indeed, actually broken.

    • It would have been impossible to not break bones if a tent nail were driven through the palm of our Savior’s hands. Look at a picture of the bones in both a hand and a foot. Then look above the hand and foot at what we, in English, call the wrist and above what we call the ankle. Most likely Jesus was nailed to the stauros with his hands and feet spread apart and to the sides of the stauros, not at the front of it as most pictures depict.

      Psalm 34:20
      20 He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.

      John 19:36King James Version (KJV)
      36 For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.

      Exodus 12:46
      46 In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof.

  7. It would have been impossible to not break bones if a tent nail were driven through the palm of our Savior’s hands. Look at a picture of the bones in both a hand and a foot. Then look above the hand and foot at what we, in English, call the wrist and above what we call the ankle. Most likely Jesus was nailed to the stauros with his hands and feet placed to the sides of the stauros, not in the front of it as most pictures depict.

    Psalm 34:20
    20 He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.

    John 19:36King James Version (KJV)
    36 For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.

    Exodus 12:46
    46 In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof.

  8. It would have been impossible to not break bones if a tent nail were driven through the palm of our Savior’s hands. Look at a picture of the bones in both a hand and a foot. Then look above the hand and foot at what we, in English, call the wrist and above what we call the ankle. Most likely Jesus was nailed to the stauros with his hands and feet spread apart and to the sides of the stauros, not at the front of it as most pictures depict.

    Psalm 34:20
    20 He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.

    John 19:36King James Version (KJV)
    36 For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.

    Exodus 12:46
    46 In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof.

    • Take a close look at the hands. It is possible, but who would have used tent pegs? 2000 years ago. We can argue over who is right but does it matter? No it does not. What matters is how we live our lives today. God bless you all

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