Periodically, people have asked me about "crucifixion" - did this practice produce positional asphyxia? The answer = YES! So, although I have absolutely no association with any sort of "organized" religion, I felt it important to offer this information to those of you who are interested.
I searched and obtained some information on "crucifixion." Of what I was able to find, this particular article was the best. Not only does it intelligently explain the relationship between crucifixion and positional asphyxia, it has reasonably accurate pathophysiologic information about the process and effects of crucifixion. I have reproduced this article here, without any editing on my part.
I originally found this information (back in 1998) at this address:
Disciple Ministries Crucifixion Information.
Unfortunately, the last time I checked this link, that page was gone!
From Disciple Ministries
Fascinating Facts Index
In the time of Christ Roman society was so degraded and paganistic that their driving passion was to search out and indulge every conceivable source of pleasure. They found great pleasure in inflicting pain on others and looked for any excuse to do so. The crucifixion was designed in every detail to cause the most horrific tortures during the process of death.
Soldiers prepared condemned men for the cross by scourging - 39 lashes from a whip called the "Cat-o-nine-tails." This was a rod about a foot long with nine leather straps. Attached to the end of each strap was a piece of broken bone or rock with sharp edges. The aim of the scourging was to remove every bit of flesh from the back without killing the man. This was done to intensify the pain and torture of the crucifixion.
After the scourging, the soldiers taunted Jesus, making fun of Him for claiming to be the King of the Jews so they formed a crown out of reeds of thorns. The thorns were 1 to 2 inches long. They pressed the crown on His head so hard the scripture says the thorns pierced His skull. The soldiers then placed a scarlet robe on His back to simulate the robe of a king.
Jesus was forced to carry His own cross to the hill upon which He would die. The people He came to love and save stood on both sides cursing and jeering Him. The cross was so heavy He fell beneath the load. A man was pulled from the crowd to carry the cross.
The crucifixion itself is unmatched throughout history for the severity of torment it brought.
The condemned man was affixed to the cross with nails driven through his wrists and feet. Through experimentation and the study of anatomy the Romans had discovered the Medial nerve located just above the wrist joint and the center of the foot. The weight of the body caused the nail to press against this nerve shooting horrific pain throughout the nerves of the body.
The weight of the body, pulling down on the outstretched arms and shoulders, would tend to fix the intercostal muscles in the position of inhalation. The only way the man could exhale was to lift with his arms and push with his legs to hold himself up for a few seconds to allow the air to escape from his lungs. To avoid suffocation the man was forced to cause his own excruciating pain by putting more pressure on the medial nerves. The average life span of a person on the cross was three to four days. After four days the soldiers would help the person to die quickly by breaking his legs so that he could not use them to push himself upward to exhale. After a few hours, the muscles in the shoulders would lock and the man would die from exhaustion asphyxia or suffocation.
Why did Jesus die after only six hours when the average man lasted three to four days?
The leaders of the Sanhedrin Council had come to the Roman officials and asked that Jesus not be left on the cross on the Sabbath so the soldiers came to break His legs and hasten His death. However, they saw that He was already dead. To ensure that He was dead, one of the soldiers thrust a spear into His side. Out of the wound came blood and water. Medical scientists today tell us that this could only happen when the aortic valve ruptures due to the formation of thrombotic vegetations in the valve. This condition is caused by extreme emotional trauma.
What emotional trauma did Jesus suffer that could have caused this condition?
The scripture says that Jesus carried all the sin of mankind on Him. In that moment when all the sin of the world, past, present, and future, was focused on the heart of Jesus the most horrible thing of all happened. The Holy and Righteous God could not have fellowship and intimacy with sin. Jesus was separated from His Father. He was abandoned. He was alone. The Father had turned His back on the Son. Jesus cried out, "My God, My God, Why have you forsaken Me?"
On the night of His betrayal, while Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemene, blood oozed out through His sweat glands. He was experiencing then the emotional trauma of the eminent separation.
Jesus died with the sin of the world on His heart. But did sin kill Him? No!! Before He died He said, "Father unto your hands I commend my spirit." Sin did not kill Him. He gave up His life. This was His gift of love to all.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16