We see the narrative of Jesus' death on the Cross as given by John at 19: 31-33:

Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.

The Wikipedia write-up on crucifixion has this information:

In Roman-style crucifixion, the condemned could take up to a few days to die, but death was sometimes hastened by human action. The attending Roman guards could leave the site only after the victim had died, and were known to precipitate death by means of deliberate fracturing of the tibia and/or fibula, spear stab wounds into the heart, sharp blows to the front of the chest, or a smoking fire built at the foot of the cross to asphyxiate the victim. The Romans sometimes broke the prisoner's legs to hasten death and usually forbade burial.In some cases, the person was often deliberately kept alive as long as possible to prolong his suffering and humiliation, so as to provide the maximum deterrent effect.

As per the Gospel narratives, Jesus died within three hours of his crucifixion, that is much earlier than what had been expected (Mk 15:44) . One is given to believe that just as it had been ordained that his legs would not be broken ( John 19:36) , it was also ordained that Jesus would not have to lie on the cross for a longer duration. My question therefore is: Does the Catholic Church teach that the early death of Jesus on the Cross, had been ordained by God the Father?

  • It seems to me that if the circumstances produced by a quick death were ordained... Jul 10, 2020 at 11:00
  • What's the alternative? That God was taken by surprise? That it happened contrary to his will? That it was random? I don't know the details of the Catholic doctrine of God's sovereignty, but shouldn't the default position be that what happened (especially if it's part of redemption history) happened because it was ordained by God?
    – curiousdannii
    Jul 10, 2020 at 13:44
  • The rapid death of Jesus Christ was of his own volition. He 'gave up the ghost' [KJV or 'spirit' original.] 'I lay down (my life) of myself ; no man taketh it from me' John 10:18. He was offered up 'of the eternal Spirit' (Hebrews 9:14) and yielded his life voluntarily (John 10:18). And this was to do the will of the Father (see Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane). All Deity agreed upon this matter, from everlasting.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 10, 2020 at 22:37
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    It would probably be shorter to list the elements of the Passion that weren't ordained by God. Off the top of my head I can't think of any.
    – EvilSnack
    Jul 12, 2020 at 23:45

2 Answers 2


The Catechism reads:

599 Jesus' violent death was not the result of chance in an unfortunate coincidence of circumstances, but is part of the mystery of God's plan, as St. Peter explains to the Jews of Jerusalem in his first sermon on Pentecost: "This Jesus [was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God." This Biblical language does not mean that those who handed him over were merely passive players in a scenario written in advance by God.

  • 1
    Welcome to SE-C. Please see the Tour and Help as to the purpose and the functioning of the site.Good answer +1.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 10, 2020 at 22:42
  • The focus of my question is the fact that Jesus died earlier than that had been expected. We see at Mark 15:44 " Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died." . Jul 13, 2020 at 5:24

We call Jesus the Lamb of God who gave himself up as a sacrificial offering for our sins. Incidentally, the Old Testament always insisted on the wholeness of the sacrificial lamb. For instance, we see at Leviticus 5:18

"He must bring to the priest an unblemished ram of proper value from the flock as a guilt offering. Then the priest will make atonement on his behalf for the wrong he has committed unintentionally, and he will be forgiven. ""

We also see Abraham offering, in lieu of his son, the ram at Genesis 22:13:

" Then Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw behind him a ram in the thicket, caught by its horns. So he went and took the ram and offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son. "

To the careful reader, the attribute `caught by the horns' has great significance, in that the body of the ram had not been mutilated and as such, it was an unblemished offering for the Lord.

True, Jesus had been scourged beyond limits before his crucifixion. But his physical body still had its wholeness till the time he gave up his spirit. Things would have been different if he stayed put on the cross like an ordinary criminal, with his body emaciated and shrunk, begging death to come take him, or in the alternative, was pierced alive for quicker death! Thus, there is ground for the thought that the early death of Jesus on the Cross had been divinely ordained.

Well, I know these are not the teachings of the Catholic Church. But, if someone could build on them, he/she is most welcome.

  • Interestingly two of the cross-references one gets for John 19: 36 ( Now these things happened so that the Scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of His bones will be broken.” ) are Exodus 12:46 and Num 9:12 which lay down that the bones of the sacrificial lamb be not broken ! Jul 15, 2020 at 4:54

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