We read in Mark 15: 42-44:

"When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. "

That implies that Jesus'death on the cross happened earlier than had been expected. Some medical professionals theorize that Jesus died of a heart failure, to which extreme mental stress had significantly contributed. They believe that the Lord's psychological trauma did not end with the Sweating of Blood at Gethsemane, rather followed Him to the Cross.

Now, one should not expect that the Creed will be re-written to state that Jesus died on the Cross, of heart-failure. But, understanding the theory helps one to look at the mental agony of Jesus with the same gravity as his physical suffering.

My question therefore, is: Has the Catholic Church taken cognizance of the theory that the terminal cause of Jesus's death on the cross was heart-failure ?

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    I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it again. This command I have received from My Father. John 10:17,18.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 31, 2021 at 7:57
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    – Null
    Aug 31, 2021 at 12:27
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    Matthew 27:50 and John 19:30 have Jesus giving up or yielding up His spirit. The Greek underneath is in the active voice which indicates that the subject (Jesus) performs the action (give). Whether he may have eventually died due to physical causes, whether heart failure, suffocation, or what have you, is irrelevant. Jesus yielded up His spirit when His work was finished. Aug 31, 2021 at 18:17
  • Two points... first, I've heard it said that all deaths are caused by heart failure. I think there is some truth in this, or more accurately, death is caused when the brain stops receiving oxygenated blood (so, your options are asphyxiation, exsanguination/decapitation, or, yes, heart failure, and even those might not be clearly separated). Second, I believe it's well documented that people can die from "losing the will to live". Thus, science would support the idea that Christ willingly giving up His spirit was a significant factor in His death. Also, I don't see these as incompatible.
    – Matthew
    Sep 1, 2021 at 12:39

2 Answers 2


Has the Catholic Church taken cognizance of the theory that the terminal cause of Jesus's death on the cross was heart-failure?

The short answer is no!

Crucifixion was a torture in itself to deliberately produce death. However some Catholic physicians have written on the minuet causes of what the crucified actually died of.

In his book, A Doctor at Calvary: The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ as Described by a Surgeon (1950), the French Surgeon Pierre Barbet put forth convincingly that Our Lord died of suffocation.

In another theory The Physical Death of Jesus Christ, Dr. Edwards, postulated that Jesus died of died of shock brought on by copious blood loss so that he did not have enough blood to keep his brain and heart, and therefore the rest of his body, alive. His heart probably started beating in a rapid rhythm called ventricular tachycardia.

Of these various medical theories on the cause of Jesus’ death while on the Cross, the Church has not recognized any one as being the absolute cause of Our Lord’s death.

Others claim it was due myocardial infarction, heart rupture and hemopericardium.

For more information the following sources:

  • Thanks Ken Graham, for the resourceful and conclusive answer. As regards the `suffocation-death theory' it needs to be taken with a pinch of salt since Luke 23:46 says : " Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. " Sep 1, 2021 at 6:12

What is the basis that He died of heart failure?

Although, most likely the severe psychological trauma in the garden of Gethsemane took a physical toll, so did the multiple trials, the crown of thorns on his head, carrying the cross to the hill.

37 And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last. 38 Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that [g]He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+15&version=NKJV \

30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+19&version=NKJV \


50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. ... 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+27&version=NKJV \

When they pierced His side, water coming out signified that they also pierced His heart, but He was already dead. Piercing the heart was so that the Romans and ultimately the rest of the world would know He truly died.

Putting these passages together, the sequence of events in close time proximity was A. He cried out B. He gave up His Spirit C. He breathed His last. Cessation of breathing would indicate death. The centurion immediately refers to Him in the past tense.

It seems that He died when He chose to give up His Spirit.

  • Are Biblical verses and Biblical reasoning sufficient for Catholicism?
    – nickalh
    Aug 31, 2021 at 6:27
  • Please google for: ``The Causes of Jesus’ Death in the Light of the Holy Bible and the Turin Shroud. " Please do not hint that Jesus chose an early death after staying on the cross for only three hours ( against days on end , as had been happening in the case of routine convicts) to stave off more suffering . After all , Jesus was the one who took upon himself the obligation of drinking the cup that the Father had given him (Jn 18:11) . Aug 31, 2021 at 6:42
  • Please include relevant quotes and references from that source.
    – nickalh
    Aug 31, 2021 at 6:46
  • @nickalh Up-voted +1. No need to Google anything : the scripture is abundantly clear.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 31, 2021 at 8:00
  • What makes a good response to a Catholic question for Catholicism? See: here. It seems that Christ died as a result of severe physical trauma rather than severe psychological trauma as you claim. Your claim must supported. Individuals have been know to sweat blood and survive!
    – Ken Graham
    Aug 31, 2021 at 16:58

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