Was Jesus pierced in his heart on the cross?


That Guardian article doesn’t address the question I asked. Why didn’t the soldiers use the same method – either breaking their legs or stabbing them in the heart – in all three cases?


So the Roman weapons of the day would have either been a pilum, which is a long thin javelin (see pic below):

Or a cavalry lance:

Personally, of the two, I think it is far more likely that the Roman soldier was a cavalrymen using the heavier lance, rather than the pilum. The Pilum was a javelin that was essentially designed to allow the long thin iron head to bend once it struck its object so that it was difficult to remove, or if it struck a shield, forced its bearer to discard the compromised shield. Plus, if I were Pilate, I would have wanted the heavy horse in Jerusalem during Passover because they are good for crowd control, are intimidating, and good for mobility.

Anyway, it is highly likely that though Jesus was pierced in the side, the spear either went between the ribs, or being thrust upwards went through the soft tissue below the rib cage, through the diaphragm, and pierced the pericardium (outer lining of the heart). Medical professionals will tell you that when one dies of crucifixion the cause of death is usually heart failure caused by asphyxiation. This results in fluid build-up in the pericardium. It is likely, that this is what caused the mixture of water and blood, proving to the Roman soldiers that Jesus was dead. John wasn’t describing a miracle, he was describing definitive proof that Jesus was in fact dead.


John’s term is λογχη, lonche, corresponding to the Latin lancea used here in the Vulgate. It can be difficult to pin down exactly what a lancea was, however, since both the weapon itself and the way it was handled in combat changed considerably over the centuries.



If the pericardium of the heart was pierced, that would lead to the impression of blood and water flowing forth. Blood plasma is sort of a yellowish color, and is 92% water. Other people suggest that after death, in an individual who has been badly beaten and tortured, the blood will separate out into clot and serum. “Pulmonary oedema” and “pleural effusion” and “pericardial effusion” are other medical terms that are pertinent to the theories.

But the big point with John’s gospel is that he’s testifying to the fact that Jesus was physically, absolutely, 100% dead on the cross, no questions about it. Some of the earliest heresies were that Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross— he just looked like he died, or he pretended to die but was taken down before physical death, or whatever.

By testifying to the fact that “blood and water” came from his side, he’s basically saying that Jesus has been pierced to the heart (and/or lungs) with a spear, and that’s not something you can really get better from, even if you weren’t dead before it happened.


Google encyclical Haurietas Aquas, where the exact language he uses is that the lance “certainly” reached the heart.


Catholic Culture article " His Heart was Pierced for Us" from 2015 by Steven Beale. (I suggest you start here.)


Thank you, @DeaconJeff! I’ve downloaded it. It’s quite long and I’ll read it through carefully later today. I notice, however, that John 19:34 doesn’t seem to be mentioned in any of the footnotes.



In Aquas Haurietis there is only one explicit mention, as far as I can see, of the wound from the soldier’s lance:

78. What is here written of the side of Christ, opened by the wound from the soldier, should also be said of the Heart which was certainly reached by the stab of the lance, since the soldier pierced it precisely to make certain that Jesus Christ crucified was really dead. Hence the wound of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus, now that He has completed His mortal life, remains through the course of the ages a striking image of that spontaneous charity by which God gave His only begotten Son for the redemption of men and by which Christ expressed such passionate love for us that He offered Himself as a bleeding victim on Calvary for our sake: "Christ loved us and delivered Himself for us, an oblation and a sacrifice to God for an odor of sweetness."(82)

Footnote 82 references Eph. 5:2, “[…] and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma” (Eph 5:2, Nabre).


[More later]


On another thread yesterday (link below) @Roseeurekacross posted a paragraph from the CCC which has a direct bearing on this question:

766. The Church is born primarily of Christ’s total self-giving for our salvation, anticipated in the institution of the Eucharist and fulfilled on the cross. The origin and growth of the Church are symbolized by the blood and water which flowed from the open side of the crucified Jesus.171 For it was from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth the 'wondrous sacrament of the whole Church.'172 As Eve was formed from the sleeping Adam’s side, so the Church was born from the pierced heart of Christ hanging dead on the cross.173

We have two sources, then, for the Catholic teaching that the soldier’s spear pierced Christ’s heart: Pius XII’s encyclical Aquas haurietis and the CCC paragraph 766. That looks pretty conclusive to me.


Kind of settles it , as the Vatican states Jesus was pierced through the heart.

God bless us


I wonder what caused the blood and water. :thinking:


Breaking the legs was the standard procedure. The soldier was moved to use the lance instead. He was Longinus who then converted to Christianity. God works in mysterious ways.


The blood is obvious, if somebody stabs you that deep, you will bleed.

Water collects in the pericardial sac around the heart due to the suffocation process associated with crucifixion and also according to some sources from shock. Also around the lungs in the pleural sac which might have gotten pierced too.

Here is an article on the science of Jesus’ torture and crucifixion that explains the water buildup in detail.

When Jesus was stabbed with the lance, it went through the pericardial sac on its way to the heart (and possibly pleural sac as well) and all the collected water flowed out along with the blood from being wounded.
If he actually was totally dead already (so the heart wasn’t pumping any blood) instead of just really close to death (so the heart would have still been pumping some blood), then there was likely blood collected in the pericardial sac along with the water and it would have flowed out with the water.


Guest1 - The lance thrust will have been done expertly, and with a lance point honed to professional standards. The mark on the Turin Shroud indicts a thrust that avoided bones, and was angled to the heart.

The Roman soldiers did not mess about or do things in a slap-dash way - their own lives would often hang on doing things in strict accordance/compliance with orders.

As the Passover weekend was in the offing, the legs of the two thieves were broken to hurry up their ‘suffocation’, but Jesus already appeared dead, but just to make sure this was so, a ‘clinically’ administered thrust was angled diagonally up and across to the heart.

If they had fouled up, Pontius Pilate was known to be a hard task master, lacking in such as tolerance and empathy.


Guest - During great torture, blood, particularly heart blood, tends to get separated into constituent parts, such as lymph/‘water’, and bilirubin {the ‘red’ that initially puzzled some of the more recent scientific examiners of the Turin Shroud.


Technically there could be doubt, no matter how well trained a Centurion was, no one could possibly know except someone that was there (JESUS). Also Jesus’ body ascended to Heaven three days later so we can never examine it.


Any person can doubt, the question is whether there is a reasonable doubt based on evidence. See below the peer reviewed article in the Journal of the American Medical Association published in 1986.


No, it reached the heart of the Blessed Virgin.

Luke 2:34-35

and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is set for the fall* and rising of many in Israel,
and for a sign that is spoken against
(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also),
that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.”


This topic was automatically closed 14 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.