Hands or above wrist?

Hello all,

A friend and I have been discussing whether the nails were driven through Jesus’ hands or above the wrist. I saw a study many years back that showed it could not have been through the hands, for the weight of the body would cause the nail to tear through the hand. So I just figured they would have just used rope to help support the weight, while still causing as much pain as possible. My friend suggests the nail was driven right between the two arm bones right above the wrist. It would certainly hold the weight of the body. Makes perfect sense. I thought maybe in the translation to Latin, maybe there was no word to distinguish between forearm and hand. Like Jesus’ ‘brethren’ were His cousins, not his actual ‘brothers’. But then I look to those who had the Stigmata. I have seen on Padre Pio, that the wound is clearly on his hand. But then I look at the Shroud of Turin, and it shows the wounds to almost look as if they are on the wrists. At least that is how it looks to me (I’m a desk jockey, not a doctor). I thought maybe the nails were at an angle, in the hands and through the wrists. But that wouldn’t work as we must remember that not a bone of Jesus was broken. Again, I am no doctor, but it seems that even a large nail through the hand would break one of those small bones.

Any information and enlightenment would be most appreciated.

Thank you,


Actually as I recall it can be that they could have entered in way that involved both…entering and exiting in a particular way. (hence your thought can be on track there…)

(PS: I will note too that “hands” in the language in question involves more that what we mean by the term in English)

As to the stigmata – where the actual wounds were does not matter.

The subjective expectation of the recipient of the S would play into where they were given.

If a stigmatist believed the nails went through the hands, he would likely perceive his reception of the stigmata to be counterfeit if they went through the wrist.

A true stigmatist does not create the stigmata based on his perception or knowledge. It is God’s finger that creates them. Make no mistake on this. Many saints experienced the five holy wounds, though few had them visibly, and they were always in the hand. There can be no doubt on this matter, for me.

The best scientific work on the stigmata (specifically about the two holy wounds on the hands) is the research by Dr. Frederick Zugibe: “The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Forensic Inquiry”. In it, he shows how the entrance point of the nails was the center of the hand, and the exit point was on the hand slightly above the wrist. This matches perfectly the Holy Shroud, whose exit point is only observed on the back of one hand and is not on the wrist but slightly above.

It is a misconception that the hands cannot hold the weight of the body, based on a previously faulty research which was held to be true for many decades. Dr. Zugibe also goes over this in his book.

This webpage based on his work goes over the specific question you ask, with images.

Furthermore, there is extensive scriptural evidence for the entry point on the hand, from the statement to St. Thomas to the Old Testament…for instance, Isaiah 49:16 as well as Zechariah 13:6

And they shall say to him: What are these wounds in the midst of thy hands? And he shall say: With these I was wounded in the house of them that loved me.

I will not forget you: behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands

The Greek and Hebrew words for hand can mean the upper limb from the shoulder down. There is no contradiction.

Also, we see this usage in Jeremiah ( where he is freed from chains that are on his hands), and in Acts (where chains fall off Peter’s hands). In either case the chains would have been around the man’s wrists or forearms.


:confused: I wrote about the stigmatist receiving the wounds not creating them.

I have no doubt that the stigmatist saints are genuine.

I do think that God honors our perceptions when He reveals Himself and the Saints to us. The Blessed Mother appears as though she is a Native American in Our Lady of Guadalupe and as though she is Vietnamese in Our Lady of La Vang. With the latter, her Divine Son appears in her arms as a Vietnamese boy.

There is nothing wrong with the information presented. The OP is referring, however, to popular artwork that depicts the nail passing between the metacarpals. Many stigmatists, similarly, receive their wounds among the metacarpals (at least, depictions of these saints seem to indicate that).

Actually, come to think of it, the alternative that the nails might pass between the radius and ulna is as problematic as the one of passing between the metacarpals. The nail could be pulled through the arm fairly easily. Passing through the carpals, as the link suggests, does seem to solve the problem.

@SonCatcher never meant to imply that you said they “created” them :frowning: I do agree about the perceptions though.

One needs to think for a minute about the purpose that the stigmata serves-- why does God cause or allow it to occur in those to whom it appears? It is not for the benefit of the Saint, who is usually a mystic and presumably already a person of great Faith. And it is not to give a scientific example of exactly what the crucifixion looked like. No, the purpose and value of the stigmata is in it’s sign value, that is, it is to call to mind to the faithful who see and know of this miracle the wounds of Christ as portrayed in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

If stigmatists of past ages had shown up with wounds on their wrists, most people based on their understanding of the wounds of Christ would have said, “What are you trying to pull? Everyone knows Christ was nailed through his hands–it says so in the Bible!”

It’s easy in our more fact-obsessed age to look back and pick these things apart, but that would be to entirely miss the point of why the miracle was given in the first place.

I have been interested in the Shroud of Turin during my orthopaedic surgery career since the mid 1970s. I have operated on hundreds of hands and wrists – mainly for carpal tunnel syndrome and Colle’s fractures of the wrist.

Over the weekend I will post short descriptions of wrist bony anatomy and about median nerve function. I will compare these to images of the Shroud.

Then I will list my opinions which are a little different than what you have read.

I’m looking forward to your professional opinion.

Way cool!


Thank you Triumphguy and GEddie,

Before presenting my anatomical observations, I should make the two disclosures:

  1. I am an Anglican
  2. I believe that the Shroud of Turin is the true burial cloth of Jesus.


Here is an informative article from National Catholoic Reporter. I copy/paste this as it is often pointed out that there is “no official position of the Church” about the Shroud.

Pope Francis and the Shroud of Turin

John L. Allen Jr. | Apr. 1, 2013 NCR Today Pope Francis

While the outside world forms general impressions of Pope Francis, insiders tend to see any new papacy through the prism of their own particular interests.

Liturgical traditionalists, for instance, have already voiced some reservations about Francis’ penchant for informality and setting aside the rules, while the church’s peace-and-justice constituency is almost giddy with enthusiasm.

On Saturday, another camp got its first glimpse of what Francis might mean for their concerns, and their early verdict seems mixed: Shroud of Turin devotees.

At the moment, the famed shroud is on a special televised display organized by Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin. It’s the ninth such public display of Catholicism’s most famous cloth since the beginning of the 19th century.

Though there have been various scientific efforts to date the shroud, certitude has been elusive, and opinion remains divided between those who believe the linen cloth was the actual burial garment of Jesus, and those who believe it’s a pious invention from the Middle Ages.

Pope Francis dispatched a message for the new display in which he referred to the shroud as an “icon of a man scourged and crucified.”

The use of the term “icon” rather than “relic” amounts to the usual Vatican caution, given that the Holy See has never officially pronounced on the shroud’s authenticity, though since Pope Julius II in 1506 it has encouraged devotion to the crucified Christ aroused by the cloth.

Benedict XVI also used the term “icon” in his message for a display of the shroud in May 2010, calling it an “icon written with the blood of a whipped man, crowned with thorns, crucified and pierced on his right side.”

In that sense, Francis did not stake out any new position, and he didn’t go as far as some of his predecessors. Pius XII in 1936 called the shroud a “holy thing perhaps like nothing else”, and in April 1980, during a visit to Turin, John Paul II used the magic word “relic,” calling the shroud a “distinguished relic linked to the mystery of our redemption.”

Attentive pope-watchers did note that Francis also said the image of a scourged man had been “impressed upon the cloth,” not “painted” or “depicted.” That language could be construed as consistent with the popular conviction among devotees that the image of a body on the cloth is the result of a release of energy caused by Christ’s resurrection.

In 1978, a team of American scientists carried out an examination of the shroud and concluded there was no evidence of forgery, saying its origins were a “mystery.” A decade later, teams from Oxford, the University of Arizona and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, under the auspices of the Pontifical Academy for Sciences, did radiocarbon testing on small samples from the shroud, dating them to between 1260 and 1390.

Subsequently, however, some critics raised questions as to whether the samples used in the 1988 testing were representative of the whole shroud. Other experts have noted that ancient cloths often date later in radiocarbon analysis than their actual origins, due to bacterial contamination. (It’s a common problem, for instance, in dating ancient manuscripts.)

On Easter Sunday the Italian paper La Stampa carried an interview with Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro, director of the semi-official Vatican journal Civiltà Cattolica, insisting that Pope Francis did not intend to “enter into the dispute over dating,” and that he meant instead to make a spiritual point by saying that the man of the shroud “speaks to the heart.”

In his written message, Francis said that the face in the shroud “invites us to contemplate Jesus of Nazareth. This image … speaks to our heart and moves us to climb the hill of Calvary, to look upon the wood of the Cross, and to immerse ourselves in the eloquent silence of love.”

“By means of the Holy Shroud, the unique and supreme Word of God comes to us: Love made man, incarnate in our history; the merciful love of God who has taken upon himself all the evil of the world to free us from its power,” Francis said.

“This disfigured face resembles all those faces of men and women marred by a life which does not respect their dignity, by war and violence which afflict the weakest.”

At the end, the pope appended a prayer before the crucifix from St. Francis of Assisi.

In any event, enthusiasm for the Shroud of Turin does not seem terribly diminished by the debate over its authenticity.

In conjunction with the TV display, organizers also released a special app developed by the Italian company Haltadefinizione, called “Shroud 2.0,” promising a unique digital experience of the cloth. The app, for iPads and iPhones, drew 15,000 downloads on the first day it was available.

Later today I will present opinions about the location of the nail wounds on the hands/wrists.

Hand and Wrist anatomy

There are five digits (thumb plus four fingers) on each hand and five metacarpals. There are eight small wrist bones called carpals. The wrist joint is the articulation of the ends of the radius and ulna (forearm bones) and the eight carpal bones.

A crucifixion nail driven through the mid palm would rip through the hand even when partial (with feet nailed to the upright of the cross) body weight was applied. I have this opinion based on reading scientific articles; but have not done the distasteful experiments to prove it again!

A crucifixion nail driven through the carpal joints (between the little bones) could support the weight of the body.

There have been very detailed descriptions of that precise anatomy by Dr. Barbet and Dr. Zugibe. Each favored a slightly different location of the nail placement. The nail would go through the base of the palm (“hand” which is over the wrist carpal bones). The angled nail would exit the back side of the wrist into the transverse beam of the cross.

Probably either location would be secure and would not rip out. Probably both locations would irritate the median nerve causing flexion of the thumb, index, and middle fingers.

The significance of that last sentence will be explained tomorrow in terms of the image on the Shroud of Turin.



It is written, “They pierced my hands and my feet.” Also, ALL the stigmatists have the holes in the very middle of their hands. If Jesus was wounded in his carpals or wrists, these miracles of the stigmata would be that way, but they’re not.

Because of the so-called science claiming that the hand wounds wouldn’t have supported Him on the cross, I see many Church crucifixes with the wounds in the wrists, which really annoys me.

Also, the wound in the side is often presented on Jesus’ right side, away from the heart, whereas those Saints who have seen visions of this describe it as near (and just below) the heart.

There are people who are non-believers who have the stigmata.
I don’t think you could use the various stigmatas as evidence in Christ’s own crucifixion.


In a decade of university ICU research projects, I have observed the effects of median nerve stimulation. Electrodes placed on the skin on the palmar side of the wrist can be used to safely stimulate the median nerve. The muscles that come into action are small hand muscles that move the thumb, index, and middle fingers into a flexed position.

During the crucifixion, the Shroud Man probably would have suffered extreme nerve pain from the struggling movements of his arms with the nails through the base of the palms irritating the median nerves.

In addition, the irritation of the two median nerves could have produced flexion of the thumbs.

The “positive” photographs of the Shroud view the body in the supine face-
up position. There is a large white stain on the back of the left wrist which overlaps the right wist.


On the close-up view, please note the unusual presentation of the hands. No thumbs.

[ATTACH]17943[/ATTACH] the exit wound of the nail from the left wrist

Why would an artist paint such a weird picture of two hands?

My favorite book on the subject of the Turin Shroud is *The Resurrection of the Shroud *by Mark Antonacci. My photo of the book cover is below. The Shroud photos were from the book.


Tomorrow I will quote a paragraph that gives a theory of why the thumbs cannot be seen. I had already figured it out before reading the explanation.

But it did serve to put another nail in the coffin of the idea that the Shroud had been painted in the Middle Ages …

Very interesting thread.

I too think that the nails were driven through the palms, maybe close to the wrist.

Wouldnt the arms be supported by ropes etc to hold the weight of the body?

I for one, would love to believe that the shroud is the true image of Jesus.


Excellent input, N12!


Thank you ajecphotos and GEddie!

I will next post the most recent papal speech on the Holy Shroud.

Pope Francis spoke in March 2013.

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