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The Bible claims Pilate marveled https://biblehub.com/greek/2296.htm that Jesus was already dead late on the afternoon of the crucifixion (Mark 15:44).

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

Why? Pilate had Jesus scourged (John 19:1) with a full Roman scourging...

Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.

Pilate saw him in person after that (John 19:5).

Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!

Based on what I have read about a Roman scourging it was not uncommon for a person to die during or shortly after a Roman scourging (https://www.bibleversestudy.com/acts/acts22-roman-scourge.htm). Pilate knew what shape Jesus was in. After all, he saw him AFTER the scourging. It was possible to survive a crucifixion for two to three days for someone who was in reasonably good shape but Jesus was beaten to a pulp and died a few hours later. So why was Pilate surprised?. Jesus was no doubt greatly weakened, probably fatally, by the beating itself. The crucifixion itself was a horrible way to go https://gizmodo.com/this-is-the-horrible-way-that-crucifixion-actually-kill-1477804826

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    You need to quote the key verses concerning the surprise.
    – Michael16
    Nov 4, 2021 at 13:57

3 Answers 3

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This answer was supplied prior to the edit.


You state yourself that 'it was possible to survive crucifixion for days' and I think you have - thus - answered your own question.

It was clearly common practice to break the legs of the crucified to hasten their death (through, one assumes, suffocation) if a lingering death were inconvenient, but Jesus was dead already (having voluntarily expired).

This surprised Pilate.

As I say, I think the answer is already embedded in your question.

It is surprising because humans are unable to voluntarily stop breathing. But Jesus appeared to have done so.

Infants often go through a stage of testing this out when they are in the 'tantrum-stage' of growing up. And they soon discover that their body is built not to respond to a suicidal attempt at non-breathing.

But it is reported by the evangelist that Jesus αφηκεν το πνευμα (Matthew 27:50) - 'dismissed the spirit'.

The bigger question would be (and it deserves a separate question, I would suggest) - How was Jesus able to do what no human being is capable of doing ?


[Supplied after edit.]

After being scourged, Jesus was able to carry the cross for a distance, but thereafter required assistance.

After scourging, Jesus was capable of discussion with the erstwhile thief about his eternal state.

After scourging, Jesus survived for three hours (from the sixth hour to the ninth).

After scourging, Jesus was able to arrange for the support and well-being of his own mother.

Jesus did much after his scourging and I have not included those invisible sufferings spoken of by the apostolic writers who tell us of his suffering for the sins not his own.

Jesus stated (prior to his sufferings and death) :

Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. [John 10:17,18 KJV]

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    Let us continue this discussion in chat. Nov 4, 2021 at 17:00
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    The comment discussion on this thread has been deleted as they are not constructive to this post. The chat link has been retained for anybody interested in continuing the discussion that was sparked.
    – Steve Taylor
    Nov 4, 2021 at 21:57
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    Wait... it almost sounds like you are saying that Jesus committed suicide by refusing to breathe. Almost...
    – Andy
    Nov 4, 2021 at 23:01
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    @NigelJ - the discussion on here before was just plain disagreement and wasn't constructive to the post, but you've got two new users here who seem to be providing critique that could be engaged with constructively. Feel free to decline to respond, but they aren't doing anything wrong.
    – Steve Taylor
    Nov 5, 2021 at 7:13
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    @Andy I have edited to clarify, as per your comment.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 5, 2021 at 7:18
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Why was Pilate surprised that Jesus was already dead?

Well, not exactly.

Mark 15:44 New International Version

Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died.

Pilate wasn't sure. That's why he sent for the centurion to verify.

The operative Greek word is a bit ambiguous, New American Standard Bible:

Now Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead.

Why was Pilate surprised to hear that Jesus was already dead?

Cambridge explained:

And Pilate marvelled] Death by crucifixion did not generally supervene even for three days, and thirty-six hours is said to be the earliest period when it would be thus brought about. Pilate, therefore, marveled at the request of Joseph, and required the evidence of the centurion to assure himself of the fact.

Basically, being responsible, Pilate wanted to be sure of the fact before letting Joseph handle the body of Jesus.

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  • This is the correct (type of) answer to an off-topic question. This is a site for biblical hermaneutics, the art and science of interpretation, not for debating medicine, history, or the plausibility of anything written therein. OP, I recommend the Skeptics SE, where you're more likely to get the type of answer you're looking for
    – automaton
    Nov 4, 2021 at 18:31
  • Hi, I AM a skeptic and I have no desire to hang out with skeptics. I am not looking for skeptical answers I am searching for answers to my questions from those who do believe the Bible. Why should I waste my time to pal around with people like myself? I may not accept the answers I receive but I will at least have tried to find the answers to my questions. Being a skeptic is not that big of a problem. I want answers about the Bible and I want to ask believers, not skeptics, which I already am. Nov 4, 2021 at 22:24
  • That's reasonable. Do follow up if you have further questions. Thanks :)
    – Tony Chan
    Nov 4, 2021 at 22:30
  • Wonderful. Up voted Nov 5, 2021 at 20:49
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When something happens that one is not expecting or when something that one is expecting does not occur, one is surprised.

The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then came the soldiers, 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: - John 19:31-33

As vitriolic as their hatred was for Jesus, still the Jews were zealous for the Law. Had those crucified been left to die of crucifixion alone the bodies may have hung throughout the Feast of Unleavened Bread when no work could be done. This would have violated God's command to not leave a dead body on a tree overnight:

And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.  - Deuteronomy 21:22-23

And so the Jews requested Pilate to have the legs of those crucified broken to hasten their death, giving the Jews time to remove the bodies before that evening when the Sabbath would begin. Pilate agreed.

Clearly both the Jews and Pilate expected Jesus to still be alive, for there is no need to break the legs of a dead man on a cross.

The leg breakers, however, found Jesus already dead and, when Joseph of Arimathaea asked Pilate for the body Pilate was surprised and sought confirmation from the Centurian:

Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. - Mark 15:43-45

Scripture does not explicitly state why Pilate expected Jesus to still be alive but it does clearly state that he so marvelled at the news that he was not that he demanded confirmation. Pilate was surprised simply because something happened that he did not expect.

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