|Number of lashes|
|Method of flogging|
|Examination of wounds|
|The seriounness of the trauma|
A preliminary note concerning executions in antiquity
Such studies often result in stupefaction at the levels of malevolence and cruelty, and general indifference to the pain inflicted. Today, when even the smallest and most unimportant surgical operation is generally done under anaesthetic, it is difficult to comprehend the brutality of the past. The descriptions of ill treatments meted out in the course of a crucifixion provokes revolt and nausea. The sad fact is that a meticulous and thorough understanding of the full execution process is necessary to be able to understand the marks on the Shroud, so I have needed to describe it accurately, remaining faithful to the facts, and not letting sensibility tone it down. Some readers may prefer to by-pass this chapter without reading it, but to do so risks missing most of the significant content of the Shroud, and not understand what a crucifixion was. The pious who read on will discover the full extent of the sufferings endured by Jesus in the course of his Passion and will understand better the price he paid to redeem the sins of the world.
Brutal flogging was normal before any crucifixion, except maybe in the case of mass crucifixions when the number to be killed each day allowed no time for the whips. For example, at one time, after the beginning of the general rebellion of the Jews against Roman tyrany after 66 AD and before the expulsion from the Holy Land of thousands of the more prominent survivors, the rate of crucifixion was reported to be as high as 500 per day, men women and children.
|Number of lashes :
Hebrew law was strict on this, limiting it to 40. The Pharisees, in order to make sure that they never broke the law, gave only 39 lashes. The Romans had no limit, except for the fact that the victims should be left with just enough strength to carry their crosses to the place of execution. As the man who condemned Jesus to be flogged was Pilate, the Roman Proconsul, the number of lashes could be unlimited. The Gospels report that Jesus could not carry his cross without calling to an onlooker for help. This suggests a very severe beating. Those who have studied the traces of the flogging on the Shroud have identified over 100 lash marks
The victims were tied to columns with their hands above their heads, so we seldom find lash wounds on the arms or forearms
The images created by the
yellow streaks are three dimensional as we have seen, but have no particular orientation.
On the contrary, the wounds caused by the flogging have a direction, and seen from an
angle of 45 degrees, one can see, with the aid of a computer, which traces were caused by
he whip on the left, and which by the whip on the right. This characteristic is seen only
in the flogging. No other mark on the shroud shows any particular orientation. We see here
a detail which escapes any attempt at falsification. There is no doubt that the body
wrapped in the shroud suffered severe flogging with weighted whips.
We can calculate the amount of destructive energy that was transferred to the body during the flogging, i.e. the total kinetic energy in all those swinging lashes, which was converted on impact into destructive force.
We know :
Now we need to know the speed of the blow when it hit the body. This can be
assessed by comparison with known facts from another activity with similar movements --
throwing a javelin. It is held directly in the hand, about 60 centimetres from the
shoulder, and its launch velocity is around 100 kilometres per hour, i.e. about 28 metres
The total energy transferred during the flogging is therefore around (1/2 m v2) x 110, i.e. 396 kgm, or around 3883 joules. What does this mean? Well, the kinetic energy in a 9mm parabellum round fired by an automatic pistol or sub-machine gun is only 36.5 kgm, so the total energy transferred by the flogging was equivalent to the energy conveyed by the impact of nine 9mm bullets. For readers more familiar with a 0.357 inch Magnum, one of the most powerful handgun / munitions combinations available, the kinetic energy of a round fired from this is 100 kgm, so the energy transferred by the flogging would have been equivalent to the energy released in the impact of four 0.357 magnum rounds.
The ballistic specialist, M. H. Josserand,
used a coefficient of efficiency for munitions, which he called stopping power (StP). This
corresponds to the energy of the projectile (in kgm) multiplied by its surface in cm2.
He devised a trauma scale, relating StP values to the pathological consequences.
In the case of this flogging, we have calculated, from the total energy of 396
kgm, and an impact surface area of 2.5 cm2, that the StP would be 990. This is 28 times
the amount of impact energy required to knock a man out of combat. With two thongs on a
whip, the 110 lash marks must have resulted from 55 lashes (arm swings), and each of these
55 contained enough energy to stun the victim. Obviously, in using this comparison, we
must remember that an impacting pistol round releases its energy more rapidly than a whip
lash, and thus causes greater devastation, but the overall order of magnitude is the same,
so it is easy to see how devastating a flogging is to the human body.
Let us calculate now, the area of skin surface damaged, and the volume of muscular-cutaneous contusion
When something is banged brutally against, or into, your
flesh, each impact compresses violently the muscular-cutaneous plane situated immediately
underneath the impacting object, and also a margin of at least 5mm around it. In this
flogging, the surface affected by each impact was about 8 cm2, and the volume bruised 12
cm3. Multiplying this by 110 impacts we get a surface area of 880 cm2, and a bruised
volume of 1320 cm3, i.e. 1.3 litres. This is a huge volume of crushed tissue in which the
cells are gravely damaged, their membranes ruptured, and their contents liberated and
The extremely serious nature of the trauma received is discussed elsewhere. See the physical and pathological effects of the flogging.
The images created by the yellow stains are three dimensional as we have seen, but have no particular orientation. On the contrary, the wounds caused by the flogging have a direction, and seen from an angle of 45 degrees, one can see, with the aid of a computer, which traces were caused by he whip on the left, and which by the whip on the right. This characteristic is seen only in the flogging. No other mark on the shroud shows any particular orientation. We see here a detail which escapes any attempt at falsification. There is no doubt that the body wrapped in the shroud suffered a severe flogging with weighted whips.