Nails in the palms or the wrists?


Our parish church recently installed a beautiful, HUGE cross on the main altar with a statue of Jesus on it and on that statue He is nailed through the WRISTS. When I asked our Pastor about it, he pointed out that based on what we know about the body, this was mostlikely how Jesus was nailed to the cross because modern science tells us that if Jesus was nailed to the cross with the nails through His palms, it would not be able to support His weight on the cross and that instead, He was nailed to the cross through the wrists.

An earlier thread and the the American Association of Ophthalmology also seems to support this position.

If that is so, then why did Padre Pio and others who have received the stigmata, received them on the palms and not the wrists?


What your pastor said is not correct. Previous experiments which showed the palms could not hold the weight of an adult man have been proven to be wrong. Go to EWTN catalogue and you’ll find a good book on this called The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Forensic Enquiry by Dr Frederick Zugibe. He also appeared in a program about this on EWTN.


Then our parish spent a LOT of money on a statue that is historically incorrect.


We don’t know where the nails went. Science supports that the hands alone would not be able to support the body of Jesus, but the Romans could have used ropes around his arms to support his weight.

As for the stigmata…why do the wounds have to be exactly like those of Christ? In those saints who received the stigmata, there is a profound union between the saint and Christ crucified. For example, saint Francis of Assisi had a vision of Christ crucified, and then he received the stigmata. Stigmatists seem to get it based on their conception of the crucifixion. There are other stigmatists who live in our century who have received the stigmata on their wrists. There is a psychological element to this that cannot be discounted, but why can’t God work through our psychology?

The same thing goes for visions of Mary or Jesus. You can find several descriptions of Mary that are often very different. For example, compare the Mary of Guadeloupe with the Mary of Lourdes. There are differences. The Mary of Guadeloupe is…well…more Mexican. The Mary of Lourdes is much more caucasian. The Mary of Fatima also had different features. But this does not invalidate these miracles and visions. For me, it shows that God is working through our human psychology.

The Jesus I have a personal relationship with is a Jesus unique to me because my relationship with him is unique to me. The Jesus I envision probably looks very different from the actual Jesus of history. And he also speaks English. He knows everything about my life and my world. He know about my wife, my two kids, my job, my house, my car etc… because he knows me.

If Jesus appeared to me today, as he was two thousand years ago, I would probably not recognize him. I believe that if he did appear to me today, he would probably suit his appearance to fit my psychological and societal framework. Our God created our minds, and he can use our minds to communicate with us.



If I recall correctly, the initial study that concluded that Our Lord could not have been nailed in the palms failed to take into consideration that His feet were also nailed to the cross. In other words, they nailed the palms of cadavers to a crossbeam and let the body dangle freely. Of course, the pressure on the palms was to high, leading the researchers to conclude the nails had to be through the wrists.

However, as Thistle pointed out, Zugibe has done extensive follow-up research, and has demonstrated that with one’s feet bound to the cross, the pressure on the palms is greatly reduced - to the point where the palms could easily handle the pressure and weight of the body.


As I understand it, the Roman soldiers who performed crucifixions were somewhat inventive in their methods. There was not just one common way to crucify people. I have read at least 4 descriptions of methods of nailing the feet to the cross.

This site for the Shroud of Turin shows bloodstains on the back of the wrists, but high, nearer the hands, than the wrists. It is conjectured that the nails were placed at an angle through the palms, so that they exited near the wrists.


That would make sense because the idea was to torture the nailed person before death came – as a negative incentive to other citizens who thought they might flaunt their civil disobedience.

The torture partly arose from the position of the body which made it very difficult to breathe. It also arose from the nails rubbing against the nerves in the bone – horribly agonizing. It also arose from shock from loss of blood which was mainly from the scourging.

This latter effect was sought by the victims’ families because it ended the pain – and the victims’ lives – more quickly. So often the families would bribe the scourgers to use more brutal tools. These tools laid bare the bones and opened the chest cavity so that the interior body temperature deviated from the normal range; sometimes the lungs collapsed.


I learned all these clinical detailts from a Welsh guy who used to post on the BBC. There was quite a bit of heated discussion of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ at that time. One of the bones of contention was that Gibson had gone overboard with the blood and gore. In fact the Welsh guy demonstrated Gibson’s restraint, given the dreadful facts of crucifixion.

I don’t know about you guys, but I always have the urge to trip the Roman guards, bonk them on the head, and run away with Jesus – hide him away or something. I guess God knew what kind of people He wanted lining the Via Dolorosa. Folks like me would have caused some … er … technical problems.

:blushing: :shrug:


Just to insert a minor linguistic note into the discussion, the Greek word translated “hand” in the NT means anything up to the elbow. Sooo–no help there.


Oh sheesh. I remember this now that you mention it. You’re right. Thanks for this!



here’s zugibe’s article, where he demonstrates that christ could very well have been crucified with nails through the hands:


Thanks for this. btw the title of the article “NEW EXPERIMENTAL STUDIES IN CRUCIFIXION” is … er … startling. :smiley: :wink:


Indeed! Watching The Passion - or even Jesus of Nazareth – I always feel exasperated when Pilate misses his chance, or Judas his. I can totally identify with your sentiment!

It’d be pretty embarassing to be zapped by lightning for interfering with that sequence of events… :blush:



The evidence I have heard or read supports the nails going through the palms at an angle, where the roman guard could feel a space located between the wrist and the hand. He would continue to drive the nail so that it would exit between the radio-ulnar area of the wrist.



If I was getting crucified in my wrist, I would be worried about the nail piercing the artery there. That would be bad.


Piercing the medial nerve would be worse. You’re whole hand would feel like it had been set on fire. Imagine a funny bone whack that goes on, and on, and on, and…


This is one reason families often bribed the scourgers to scourge more severely. That way the crucified took less time to die.


This is fascinating information my friends. Where would a guy like me go to find a good book on this subject?


The book I mention in post #2 also covers the scourging of Jesus.


Bible no where says wrists.

Hands it was.


I have also read where piercing the medial nerve would cause the thumbs to contract which could explain why there is no image of the thumbs on the Shroud of Turin.


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