Death by crucifixion often or usually took days to kill a man yet Jesus died in only 3 hours. Why was his ordeal so conspicuously short?

Mar 15:44  And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead.  Mar 15:45  And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.  KJV

  • 2
    How Jesus was treated before the crucifixion probably affected this.
    – Perry Webb
    Aug 11, 2018 at 22:37
  • That might make the Jews his murderers rather than the Romans which is how Matthew paints it. But Jesus seems rather hale in the accounts, no? One can't simultaneously be wrenching one's heart in an effort to get a breath and praying in a loud voice so that passersby mock and run and fetch you some wine.
    – Ruminator
    Aug 11, 2018 at 23:07
  • For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 10:17-18). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
    – Perry Webb
    Aug 11, 2018 at 23:20
  • Are you asking why Jesus died quickly or why he died quickly according to Mark? That is, is this a question about a crucifixion or Mark’s telling of the story?
    – Schuh
    Sep 20, 2018 at 2:44
  • Both, I guess. I mean, it is a prominent feature of the story that his death was supernaturally fast. Pilate was aware of his beating but still was amazed to hear that he died so quickly. But a soldier had pierced him to ensure that he was truly dead.
    – Ruminator
    Sep 20, 2018 at 10:23

3 Answers 3


He was speared in the abdomen.

John 19:31-37


The Jews, therefore, that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath, since it was the preparation, (for that sabbath day was a great one,) asked of Pilate that their legs may be broken, and they taken away.

The soldiers, therefore, came, and of the first indeed they did break the legs, and of the other who was crucified with him,

and having come to Jesus, when they saw him already having been dead, they did not break his legs;

but one of the soldiers with a spear did pierce his side, and immediately there came forth blood and water;

and he who hath seen hath testified, and his testimony is true, and that one hath known that true things he speaketh, that ye also may believe.

For these things came to pass, that the Writing may be fulfilled, 'A bone of him shall not be broken;'

and again another Writing saith, 'They shall look to him whom they did pierce.'


Verse 34 (the bolded verse) did not happen after verse 33. ("did pierce" is in the aorist tense.) It explains why he was already dead and breaking His legs was not necessary.

John implies these details are really important because they fulfill two prophesies - which he quotes.

Psalms 34:20


He is keeping all his bones, One of them hath not been broken.


Zechariah 12:10


And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.


Edit in response to Ruminator's comment

Leviticus 17:10-12 says that sacrifices had to be bled out:


'And any man of the house of Israel, or of the sojourners, who is sojourning in your midst, who eateth any blood, I have even set My face against the person who is eating the blood, and have cut him off from the midst of his people;

for the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar, to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood which maketh atonement for the soul.

'Therefore I have said to the sons of Israel, No person among you doth eat blood, and the sojourner who is sojourning in your midst doth not eat blood;


John would have known about this.

Whether or not you or I believe Christ was the Messiah is not important. John says himself that he wrote his book so that readers may believe, and he was showing that Jesus was bled out because Jesus had to be bled out in order to be a proper sacrifice. If the soldiers speared Jesus after He died and blood came out of the wound, there still would have been blood in His tissues beneath that wound.

John says that when he was speared blood came out immediately (εὐθὺς) implying his heart was still beating and creating pressure to push the fluids out.

It also looks like John has a purpose in grouping those two prophecies together.

Psalms 34:20 <-- "This is not how Jesus died even though this is how the others around him died."

Zechariah 12:10 <-- "This is how he died."

In addition, something caused Jesus to yell loudly right before he died.

Matthew 27:50


And Jesus having again cried with a great voice, yielded the spirit;


Mark 15:37


And Jesus having uttered a loud cry, yielded the spirit,


Luke 23:46


and having cried with a loud voice, Jesus said, 'Father, to Thy hands I commit my spirit;' and these things having said, he breathed forth the spirit.


In addition, when Jesus appears to the disciples the first time, Thomas is not with them. When Jesus appears again and Thomas is with the others, John mentions the piercing in the side again and says it is for the purpose of believing Jesus is the Christ just like he said in John 19.

John 20:24-31


And Thomas, one of the twelve, who is called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came;

the other disciples, therefore, said to him, 'We have seen the Lord;' and he said to them, 'If I may not see in his hands the mark of the nails, and may put my finger to the mark of the nails, and may put my hand to his side, I will not believe.'

And after eight days, again were his disciples within, and Thomas with them; Jesus cometh, the doors having been shut, and he stood in the midst, and said, 'Peace to you!'

then he saith to Thomas, 'Bring thy finger hither, and see my hands, and bring thy hand, and put it to my side, and become not unbelieving, but believing.'

And Thomas answered and said to him, 'My Lord and my God;'

Jesus saith to him, 'Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed; happy those not having seen, and having believed.'

Many indeed, therefore, other signs also did Jesus before his disciples, that are not written in this book;

and these have been written that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye may have life in his name.'


It is like the hole in His side is a feature of what caused His death, just like the holes in His hands.

In Luke's account of Jesus appearing to the disciples, Luke says Jesus says He is flesh and bone - not flesh and blood.

Luke 24:39


see my hands and my feet, that I am he; handle me and see, because a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me having.'


That does not confirm Jesus bled out necessarily (it is possible He just did not mention the blood) but it is interesting Luke records Jesus describing Himself that way.

Finally, if the Romans wanted to be sure Jesus died, why not just break his legs like they did everybody else?

Edit 2

Fenton translation for Matthew 27:50 says:


But another taking a spear pierced His side, when blood and water came out. Jesus, however, having again called out with a loud voice, resigned His spirit.


  • Edited my answer.
    – colboynik
    Sep 22, 2018 at 21:42
  • He was stabbed more in the stomach than the chest - below his ribs anyway. None of his bones were broken. I also am hung up on why none of the other writers mention him being speared.
    – colboynik
    Sep 22, 2018 at 22:27
  • I hope no one burns my house down for marking your answer as the answer! :0)
    – Ruminator
    Sep 25, 2018 at 0:06
  • @Jack, the combination of water and blood would be explained if the sword had penetrated the spleen (full of blood and bleeds profusely) and stomach (recent drinks and digestive juices). The two organs are adjacent, so an upward thrust to the side, just below the ribs would have done it. Aug 8, 2019 at 18:30

There is nothing explicit in Scripture to explain the answer to this question so let me list what we do know.

  • Jesus was cruelly mistreated (eg, flogged) before the crucifixion but many such "criminals" were thus treated so this cannot explain the short time to death
  • The other criminals also crucified with Jesus were still alive and had to have their legs broken to prevent escape when they were removed from the their crosses (another common practice)
  • Jesus was a fit and healthy "tradesman" who was probably quite strong as well. Normally this might help extend the crucifixion duration but obviously it did not.

Therefore, as the question implies, there was no good physical or biological reason for Jesus to have died so quickly. Since there is nothing explicit nor biological, my only suggestion is a semi-theological answer as found in Isa 53 (I take this as a Messianic chapter). I also note that Jesus was the source of life (John 1:4, 6:35 etc) and divine (as well as fully human) so that nothing could kill Him anyway. However, in Isa 53:4, 5, we find "he was punished by God ...he was crushed for our iniquities..." etc.

Therefore, the only explanation I have is that "the LORD laid on him the iniquity of us all. It was the LORD's will to crush him" (Isa 53:6, 10)

  • 1
    The intensity of punishment is not really discussed in Scripture. However, Perry Webb has reminded us that no one took Jesus' life from Him - He laid it down voluntarily. Further, the account of the Gethsemane experience suggests that Jesus' suffering was not so much physical but the much greater mental struggle which climaxed in His cry, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" - separation from the Father. I do not understand exactly what was going on - if I did I would be God.
    – user25930
    Aug 12, 2018 at 6:34
  • Jesus was more troubled by the prospect of pain: "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." or as I translate it "talk is cheap but pain will turn you around". And besides, Jesus wasn't ever apart from God: Acts 2:25 David said about him: "'I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.". thanks for pointing to "crush" in Isaiah 53 - I'll have a look.
    – Ruminator
    Sep 19, 2018 at 22:11
  • It looks like "crush" doesn't have the sense of "crush to death" but more to make one weak, sick, wounded or contrite. biblehub.com/hebrew/2470a.htm
    – Ruminator
    Sep 20, 2018 at 11:13

Something has bothered me for a long time.

Survival on the cross depends mainly a person's upper body strength. Men could easily inhale but increasingly be unable to exhale. To exhale, men needed to the upper body strength to force out the carbon dioxide. Eventually men could inhale but not exhale. Their lungs burst.

Strong men could last days on the cross. Jesus was a carpenter. Carpenters had great upper body strength to last a long time on the cross. Sp Jesus should have lasted a long time on the cross.

When Pontius Pilate heard about Jesus' death, he wondered why it had happened so quickly (See Mark 15:44.)

Is it possible that Jesus did not die on the cross? I think it's not only possible. I think it's likely. So what does this mean?

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    – Community Bot
    Jan 4, 2022 at 21:08
  • I think I read somewhere that he must have been alive when he was pierced because blood flowed out, along with water (for which there is no biological explanation).
    – Ruminator
    Jan 5, 2022 at 21:04

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