How did blood & water flowing from the side of Christ convince the Roman soldiers?

John 19:31-35 states:

[31] Then the Jews, (because it was the parasceve,) that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath day, (for that was a great sabbath day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. [32] The soldiers therefore came; and they broke the legs of the first, and of the other that was crucified with him. [33] But after they were come to Jesus, when they saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. [34] But one of the soldiers with a spear opened his side, and immediately there came out blood and water. [35] And he that saw it, hath given testimony, and his testimony is true. And he knoweth that he saith true; that you also may believe.

I’ve heard it postulated, not from necessarily reliable sources, that the Roman soldiers being veterans would know that blood and water only flow from a wound to the heart if the victim is already dead. I don’t know if that makes medical sense or what it is based on. But it seems that these verses are meant to mean this: that the Roman soldier (by tradition named Longinus) pierced the side of the body of Christ and, seeing the result, was convinced the body was dead and therefore did not break the legs. This leads to the further affirmation to the reader of verse 35 that Christ did truly die on the cross, so there would be no doubt (no “Passover Plot”). Does anyone know more about the medical side of this?

The method by which crucifixion killed the victim was, “Asphyxiation”.
The lungs due to the position of the arms and the weight of the body become full with water. For the victim to breathe has to push up on his legs and feet which by being nailed to the cross produce excruciating pain.

Here is the chain of events that lead to the axclamation:

The sky became dark, the earth trembled. They needed to return to the garrison because of the earthquake and In fact they needed to hasten the death of the 3 victims, the way to accomplish this is by breaking their legs that way no one could try and rescue the 3 crucified.

The soldier exclaims that Jesus was allready dead, and the Centurior commands the the soldier makes sure Jesus is really dead. He executed the order by piercing the heart of the victim. From the heart blood flowed.

But in order to pierce the heart, the lance went through the lungs (or at least one of them ;)), which were filled with water.
Therefore water and blood, both flowed from the opening.

This to make a testimonial to deniers and umbelievers that say to this day:
“Oh Jesus was not really dead, He faked it”

The exclamation of the centurion it is my belief that has more to do with the signs that accompanied Jesus’s death. Which we read in the Gospels.

When he realized Jesus was already dead he must have put 2 and 2 together.

Indeed this man was the son of God. Hence the signs when he died!

For a time, I helped out in a medical laboratory. When blood sits, it begins to separate. Blood in a dead person would do the same thing, assuredly. The Romans did executions all the time, knew how to tell when someone was dead and make sure.

Now, I think the Romans were convinced he was dead. They had to make sure, because imagine the consequences if anyone survived an execution? I am not
sure what the Romans would have done to a soldier who had failed to make sure the person being executed was dead, but I have a feeling it would not have been pretty.

Oh, I hadn’t thought about the lungs being filled with water. That would explain it!

This is precisely my question. What is your evidence for this statement?

Pathological research conducted by several forensic MDs on the effects of crucifixion on the human body as a form of capital punishment in ancient Rome, all point to Jesus’s lungs being affected by Pulmonary Edema as the result of the scourging with the flagellum prior to His crucifixion, followed by having to carry His cross to Calvary in state of shock which further worsened the condition and finally being crucified in a position that exasperates breathing, therefore being unable to drain the lungs of the liquid that began accumulating in them.

I don’t know if you are aware that in the process of breathing when the human body exhales, the volume of air expelled normally contains a percentage of water vapour resultant of our methabolic processes as well as CO2.

JerryZ already explained it, but it pretty much goes like this.

It is often thought that the scourging and the beatings caused Jesus to go into hypovolemic shock (i.e. shock caused by low blood volume or hypovolemia). One of the results of hypovolemic shock would be that the heart would race to pump blood that was not there. The sustained rapid heartbeat caused by the shock would cause the buildup of pleural effusion around the heart and around the lungs. The gathering of fluid in the membrane around the heart is called pericardial effusion, and the fluid gathering around the lungs is called pleural effusion.

Now when the spear penetrated the chest, the lung collapses due to air entering the chest - due to the negative pressure in the chest cavity. This causes the level of pleural effusion to drop in the chest cavity. When the spear is withdrawn, it carries out blood and ‘water’, which would flow out gently of the chest wound as a consequence of striking the pleural effusate and puncturing the heart’s right atrium.

BTW, I should just add that I’m more the guy who thinks that one shouldn’t arbitrarily mix different details from the gospels together. :smiley:

In Mark, the centurion confesses Jesus after seeing how He died: with a cry of anguish and a scream. Because Mark loves irony, that ignoble, brtual manner of death apparently prompts the centurion to proclaim Jesus as “son of God” just like the opening words of the gospel does (“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, son of God”) - the centurion, in fact, is the only human character in Mark’s gospel to ever call Jesus God’s Son. In Matthew, meanwhile, the centurion and his men are driven to confession by the earthquake and the other supernatural phenomena - signs of God’s vindication of Jesus. Luke’s centurion proclaims Jesus as “righteous,” which is what Luke had been doing all along in the narrative: emphasizing that Jesus is innocent, that He never did anything wrong to deserve dying like this, that His death is unjust. John doesn’t have the centurion’s confession: he has instead the spear thrust and the beloved disciple’s testimony (“the one who saw it had given testimony”) - which serves to emphasize that Jesus did die, that His death was in accordance with God’s will revealed in Scripture and was a source of life and cleansing (“blood and water”) for all men.

I asked for medical explanations and I have received them :slight_smile: thanks, all

I still find it curious that a) the soldiers were convinced, via the blood and water, that Jesus was dead, and therefore didn’t break his legs like they did the others, and b) this is offered as evidence of Jesus’ death by the author. It’s like it was common knowledge. Which, during the time of crucifixions and Roman imperialism, it may have been.

[quote=jerome_ky]I still find it curious that a) the soldiers were convinced, via the blood and water, that Jesus was dead, and therefore didn’t break his legs like they did the others

Umm… no. Look at the sequence of events: it’s not that ‘blood and water’ demonstrated to the soldiers that Jesus was dead. Rather, they saw that he was dead, and therefore, they didn’t break His legs (which would have hastened death). Rather, they only pierced his chest, and blood and water flowed out.

As Patrick stated, the notion of the centurion’s realization of Jesus’ death has nothing to do with ‘blood and water’, but the circumstances of Jesus’ death. ‘Blood and water’ appears in John, and “truly this was the son of God” occurs in the synoptic Gospels.

I thought in this which just will add to the complicated question:

“This is he who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, **not with the water only **but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the truth. There are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree. .” 1Jn 5:6-8 :confused:

We need to think more on this or you have the answer …


If they saw Jesus was dead, why did they pierce His chest? Why pierce the chest of a dead man but not break his legs?

My answer to the second part would be, that they could see his legs were not holding him up any longer. Thus there was no need to break them. But that doesn’t explain the piercing.

I have always thought that what the soldiers did to Jesus was rather like the practice undertakers or morticians had in olden days of slitting a corpse’s jugular vein before preparing it for burial. Just extra insurance in case the deceased was ‘mostly’ dead rather than ‘all’ dead (that’s one for the Princess Bride fans out there :slight_smile:

After all, a victim of crucifixion would be as unlikely to survive a spear through the heart as to having their throat slit.

Because breaking his legs would cause him to continue to suffer, but would hasten his death. They were just trying to speed up the process, not to eliminate suffering. There’s no reason to break the legs of a dead man.

My answer to the second part would be, that they could see his legs were not holding him up any longer. Thus there was no need to break them. But that doesn’t explain the piercing.

I’m not sure what you mean by “holding him up”… a crucified person is bearing his weight with his arms, not his legs. The whole thing about the legs is that he needs to shift his weight onto his feet in order to lever himself up and be able to take a breath (otherwise, with his weight being borne by his spread arms, he cannot lift his chest to breathe). So, a person who could not use his legs to bear his weight – that is, a person whose “legs were not holding him up” – would be a person who has suffocated. I would liken the centurions’ actions vis-a-vis Jesus to a hunter who is collecting his prey after shooting it: he doesn’t just come up on the animal, but gives it a poke to make sure that it’s dead first…

You make a good point, but let me clarify my own. I don’t mean the crucified person’s legs “hold him up” as in he can rest his weight on them. I am referring to his ability to do just what you describe, to shift his weight to his feet enough to allow himself to take a breath. That is the reason for breaking the legs of someone who is clearly still alive- they are able to push up using their feet and take a breath, and so breaking their legs would speed up their demise. Since Jesus was not even trying to push up with his feet, there would be no reason from the soldiers’ point of view to break his legs.

Now, regarding poking the body like a hunter checking his prey, that seems like a good point. But it takes us back to the blood and water. Why are blood “and water” mentioned and how are they significant in and of themselves? I know the sacramental use the Church makes of this, and I don’t dispute it, but what is it about blood and water that makes it notable to the Evangelist?

I may well be looking too closely at this. There just seems to be something about the significance with which the episode is related that is obscure.

The narrative is pretty much a throwback to what Jesus said earlier in John’s gospel:

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart (lit. ‘his belly’) will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

John likes to engage in wordplays and double meanings. This instance is one of them. There are actually two ways of translating and understanding this passage. The translation above makes the believer the source of living water, but the other possible translation is “let him come to me, and let him who believes in me drink. As the Scripture has said…” In this translation, the “he” from whom living waters will flow is Jesus Himself. John, taking a page from the OT, likes to connect water and the Holy Spirit; for him, the Spirit was given at Jesus’ glorification - e.g. at His crucifixion and resurrection. In other words, out of a dead Jesus comes the life-giving Spirit = the water of life. I think it also ties in with Jesus’ earlier talks of Him bestowing the living water (4:9-15).

After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the scripture), “I thirst.” A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished”; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (lit. “the spirit”)

Here’s another case of John’s love of double meanings. In a literal sense, “Jesus handed over the spirit” simply means ‘Jesus died’, but all those foreshadowings John scatters throughout the gospel would lead the reader to understand that this is it. Jesus had given the Spirit at the moment of His death - His glorification.

I think 1 John holds the key to the whole narrative:

This is he who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the truth. There are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree.

Which ties in neatly with the narrative. Note the use of the same key words:

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. …] But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe.

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