Ancient Greek for Hand

I’ve read that when debating whether Jesus was nailed in His hands or wrists, it could be wrists because the ancient Greek word for hand includes the wrist.

Can someone link me to something to prove this? My Bible teacher and I discussed this today and she’d prefer the opinion of a theologian or expert in Greek.

Don’t know if this is any help, but he’s an article that discusses the Greek:

In that case, go with the LSJ, the most expert lexicon of Greek yet compiled, and note entry A2 there: χειρ is not limited to the part below the wrist.

This also obtains in biblical Greek: Mt 22:13, “Bind him hand and foot” (δησαντες αυτου ποδας και χειρας), is almost certainly a reference to the wrist, given the context.

Sometime around a century ago, it was commonly thought that Romans nailed through the upper wrist (specifically, before the junction of the ulna and radius bones) because the nailed hand could not support the weight of the body, and the hand would “rip loose.”

I remember reading about some scientist who had nailed the hands of cadavers, and found that the hand is actually quite strong - ONE nailed hand could support the full weight of any corpse.

Of course, the question arises: why does it matter?

It matters because the Bible says hand and the Shroud has it in the wrists, but visions have it in the hand.

Could you please c & p the A2 entry? I cant navigate the site.

It seems that χέρι seems to mean either hand or arm. Is that correct?

Sorry, here is the relevant part of the entry, with the relevant English parts in bold (most of the rest is composed of citations demonstrating the usage):

  1. hand and arm, arm (cf. Ruf.Onom.11,82, Gal.2.347), “πῆχυν χειρὸς δεξιτερῆς” Il.21.166; “κατὰ χεῖρα μέσην ἀγκῶνος ἔνερθε” 11.252; “χεῖρες ἀπ᾽ ὤμων ἀΐσσοντο” Hes.Th.150; “χ. εἰς ὤμους γυμναί” Longus 1.4; ἐν χερσὶ γυναικῶν πεσέειν into the arms, Il.6.81, etc.: hence, words are added to denote the hand as distinct from the arm, “ἄκρην οὔτασε χεῖρα” 5.336; “περὶ ἄκραις ταῖς χ. χειρῖδας ἔχουσι” X.Cyr.8.8.17, cf. Pl. Prt.352a.

Χειρ is used for the hand alone in other instances.

Sort of: click on LSJ in “Show lexicon entry in LSJ” in that link for χειρ, and you can see a whole range from hand to wrist to forearm to grapnel to pillar. Ancient Greek tended to allow for a lot of figurative usage, synecdoche (συνεκδοχη) being one of their own terms.

That was the late Dr. Frederick Zugibe. Zugibe pointed out that Pierre Barbet’s conclusion (made in the 1930s, occasionally still repeated today) that the hands wasn’t strong enough to support one’s body weight was based on a flawed methodology. In one experiment, Barbet nailed a freshly-amputated arm through the palm of the hand and attached an 88-pound weight on it through the elbow; after about ten minutes and a couple of shakes, the hand tore through the nail and fell off. He extrapolated from this his conclusion that he palm of the hand could not support the weight of someone crucified. Zugibe however argued that Barbet made a mistake in calculation: the calculation Barbet adopted assumes that the feet are unsupported and that the crucified person is dangling off the ground. But, Zugibe said, if the feet are secured in some way, the pull of gravity would not be as strong.

In the wrist, you mean. The Shroud only shows one wrist. And it only shows you where the nail (assuming that it was a nail wound) went out, not where it came in. So who’s to say where the nail entered? (Heck, it’s even disputed by some people whether the exit wound is really located in the wrist proper or somewhere close to the lower hand.)

And it’s true that Luke and John imply that Jesus was nailed in His “hands,” but then again the Bible also says that Rebeka wore bracelets on her “hands” (Genesis 24:22,30, 47), that the chains fell off of Peter’s “hands” (Acts 12:7), that when Nebuzaradan declared Jeremiah freed: “I release you today from the chains on your hands” (Jeremiah 40:4), that “the ropes that were on [Samson’s] arms became like flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds broke loose from his hands” (Judges 15:14) If you’re reading a more literal translation, that is.

In Hebrew and biblical Greek, bracelets and fetters are something put on someone’s yad/cheir ‘hands’, though we might be more precise and say ‘wrist’ or ‘forearm’. (Also see Ezekiel 16:11 “And I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your hands and a necklace around your neck”; 23:42 “And they put bracelets on the hands of the women and beautiful crowns on their heads”)

I mean, even today, handcuffs are put on the wrists, right? :wink:

I don’t have the source immediately at hand, but the Greek word cheira does mean everything from the elbow to the fingertips. It’s a language thing; concepts differ from language to language. By comparison, the Russian word ruka is usually taken to mean “hand”, but actually covers everything from the shoulder.

If He was nailed through the wrists, wouldn’t that break a bone and go against Prophesy?

No. The wrist is not a solid bone. It is a collection of eight bones (the carpus), which would have separated at the invasion of a nail.

I read something online that said there were skeletons that had broken bones from crucifixon.
I just skimmed it as i was googling and cant find it now.

Thank you, Patrick. Your thoroughness is, as ever, much appreciated. :slight_smile:

You were probably referring to this:

In this case the nail went through the man’s heel bone, and came out stuck in his foot when they took him down.

No, it was the wrist.

In that case, I know nothing about it. The only crucifixion victim skeleton that I’m aware of is the one that I linked to.

Are you talking about Johanan, found in 1968?
I think what I saw was a title of a post on Yahoo, which means nothing credible.

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