April 06, 2004

Passion Misses a Fact


I'll bet you've seen that or something like it before. This is a card I got today from Grace Church, a local non-denominational entity that's so large it requires or employs police officers to direct traffic on Sunday mornings. I'm not denigrating it; I'm just calling it like it is.

You see that nail? That ain't where it goes.

I've long been fascinated by the Shroud of Turin - probably since early high school. I became somewhat fascinated by Christ's crucifixion and crucifixion in general, as odd as that may sound. I read bits of all sorts of books - those who believed it (the Shroud) to be genuine and those who dubbed it a fake.

But back to the nail. Today's lesson involves the Space of Destot. Now, I've not seen The Passion of Christ, and, truthfully, don't feel (or think) I need to. So, someone will have to clue me in if Mel Gibson and his moviemaking crew got this detail right.

The Space of Destot is described as "an unsuspected gap in the wrist" - not the hand. Quoting from the 1984 book The Turin Shroud Is Genuine, page 76:
Considering the nail wound in the wrist first, Vignon had presumed that nails in the palms would not support a body on a plain cross. Barbet proved it using a dead body. Vignon pointed out that the nail had apparently been driven through the wrist, and realised that this would have given sufficient strength to hold the body. Barbet actually drove a nail through the wrist of an amputated arm. The wrist is a mass of bones, and it was not until he placed the nail against it, and struck hard with the hammer, that the nail forced its way through an unsuspected gap called 'The Space of Destot'. As the nail went through, it penetratd or displacd the long tendon coming from the forearm that flexes the thumb, which was drawn across the palm.
For further information about the Space of Destot, I send you here, here, and here. (I love this web thing - I didn't have any of this available as a young lass of 14 or so).

I'm somewhat bothered that the church doesn't know this. For some silly reason, I feel that all of the knowledge in my head is common knowledge, but of course that is not true.

Just one more crucifixion tidbit - tidbit being a horribly misplaced word for such a gruesome and terrible way to die. Those crucified do not die from bleeding to death - they die from asphyxiation - the inability to breathe. They suffocate. The Gospel of St. John mentions in 19:32 - 33:
Then came the soliders, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.

But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs.
If a man is struggling to breathe on a cross, he's likely pushing upward with his nailed feet. This is no longer possible with broken legs. Presumably, the crucifixion of the thieves had lost its spectacle appeal after some time.

While two days before Maundy Thursday might be a compelling time for a church to recruit new members, it ought to package a bit of substance with its marketing.


Posted by hln at April 6, 2004 07:02 PM | RANT | TrackBack

I knew this too. I am always amazed that they seem to insist that it was the palm that the nail went thru. I wonder if the Bible was improperly translated in the first place and that's why we still have these pictures to this day.

Don't know if this was true or not, but I was also told at one time that all other crucifixions were done with rope not nails. In other words, criminals were tied to the crucifix.

Ah well, I don't plan on seeing the movie either - I have enough imagination without the visual.

Posted by: Teresa at April 10, 2004 05:01 PM

You can also see the ropes on any image that has been nailed to the cross. If the arms are tied to the cross holding the body up then you could put the nails anywhere, including the palms because the weight of the body would be on the ropes not the hands.

Posted by: sean at March 25, 2005 08:45 AM