John 20:25 indicates that the author fabricated the crucifixion

Were the hands of Jesus pierced?
by Ibn Anwar
 
“So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands (chersin) and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand (cheira) into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25; NIV) [emphasis and parentheses added]

The anonymous author of John 20:25 suggests that the crucified Jesus was nailed through his “hands” and that’s a big problem. While it is true that the Greek behind the word ‘hands’ in the verse, i.e., χερσὶν (chersin) from χειρ (cheir), according to notable Greek lexicons and some commentaries, e.g. A Greek-English Lexicon by Liddel and Scott, Word Biblical Commentary: John by George R. Beasley-Murray, can include the arm, I am not at all convinced that that is what the verse conveys.

To be clear, in the English language, the hand is a specific part of the forearm that extends from below, and not including, the wrist. Lexico.com, which is powered by Oxford, defines ‘hand’ as, “The end part of a person’s arm beyond the wrist, including the palm, fingers, and thumb.” [1] If the words ‘chersin’ and ‘cheira’ as they occur in the verse do, in fact, mean the ‘hand and the arm,’ each time they occur, then, we should expect the Greek experts behind the New International Version cited above to correctly render the words as “hand and arm,” but in fact, of all the translations of the verse that I have carefully consulted, not a single one attests to that meaning. All of them without exception define the word ‘cheir’ as nothing more than the ‘hand,’ which necessarily excludes the wrist.
The following is a sample of some of those translations of John 20:25:

1. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (English Standard Version)

2. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. (King James Version)

3. So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” (New American Standard Bible)

4. So the other disciples kept telling him, “We’ve seen the Lord!” But he told them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger into them, and put my hand into his side, I’ll never believe!” (International Standard Version)

5. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. (American Standard Version)

6. The other disciples therefore said to him, We have seen the Lord. But he said to them, Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. (Darby Bible Translation)

7. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (Revised Standard Version)

8. The other disciples therefore said to him, We have seen the Lord. But he said to them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. (Webster’s Bible Translation)

9. So the rest of the disciples told him, “We have seen the Master!” His reply was, “Unless I see in his hands the wound made by the nails and put my finger into the wound, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe it.” (Weymouth New Testament)

10. 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.’ (Young’s Literal Translation)

11. The other disciples therefore said to him: We have seen the Lord. But he said to them: Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. (Douay-Rheims Bible)

Even Bibles before the 20th century in the following define the words as ‘hands’ and ‘hand’ respectively without including the wrist or any part of the arm.

1. The other disciples therfore sayde vnto hym, we haue seene the Lorde. But he sayde vnto them: Except I see in his handes the print of the nayles, and put my fynger into the prynt of the nayles, and thruste my hande into his syde, I wyll not beleue. (Bishop’s Bible)

2. The other disciples sayd vnto him: we have sene ye lorde. And he sayde vnto the: except I se in his hondes the prent of the nayles and put my fynger in the holes of the nayles and thrust my honde into his syde I will not beleve. (Tyndale Bible Translation)

The Latin Vulgate also defines the word as ‘manus’ which means ‘hand’ and that does not include the wrist. The Latin word ‘manus’ is defined as “…the part of the fore limb below the forearm in a human, or the corresponding part in other vertebrates.” The verse reads as follows:

Dixerunt ergo ei alii discipuli : Vidimus Dominum. Ille autem dixit eis : Nisi videro in manibus ejus fixuram clavorum, et mittam digitum meum in locum clavorum, et mittam manum meam in latus ejus, non credam.
‘Manibus’ (from manus) means ‘with hands’ and ‘manum meam’ means ‘my hand’.

In fact, if the Christian apologist were to insist that the ‘cheir’ (hand) as it occurs in John 20:25 should include the arm in its meaning, then, they would have to concede that the second occurrence of the word in the verse necessitates that Thomas wanted to put his whole arm into Jesus’ supposed wound on the side of his body which would make for a rather morbid and comical scene.

The fact of the matter is none of the Biblical translations available defines or understands the word as meaning hand and arm, including the wrist. All of them are uniformed in defining the word as “hand,” and by that, the wrist is most certainly excluded.

What’s the big problem if the anonymous author of John 20:25 said Jesus’ hands were nailed?

Quite simply, if Jesus had actually been suspended on the Roman cross (whatever that shape might have been) by having nails driven through his hands, that would have led to his hands getting torn by the sheer weight of his body and he would have fallen to the ground, no longer affixed to the stake. Such a clumsy spectacle is not known in the Christian records. Driving nails into the hands would not have been a sufficient method of suspending the human body upon a cross. The weight of the body of the victim would have been too much for the fragile hands to support. This point is mentioned clearly in the following peer-reviewed journal article written specifically addressing this issue:

“Techniques used to secure the upper extremities to the cross have also been explored by scholars of crucifixion. Popular belief and many artistic depictions have long depicted nails passing through the palms of the hands of the crucified victim (Fig. 1). Many critics have challenged this theory, however, citing the mechanical inability of the hands to support the weight of the crucified body on the cross (Barbet 1953; Haas 1970; Tzaferis 1971; Davis 1976; Weaver 1980; Edwards et al. 1986). Cadaveric studies have indeed supported this criticism, demonstrating that nails simply tear through the flesh between the metacarpal bones when secured to a cross in this manner (Barbet 1953). If nails are passed through the wrist, however, the arms can support the weight of the body because of mechanical support from the transverse carpal ligament, flexor retinaculum, and carpal bones of the hand (Shrier 2002). Ossuary findings near Jerusalem and the Shroud of Turin have provided additional evidence on the topic, supporting the theory that nailing of the wrists was performed between the radius and ulna bones (Haas 1970; Tzaferis 1971; Weaver 1980).” [2] (emphasis added)

In a nutshell, the Romans did not nail victims of the crucifixion on their hands. If they used nails at all, they would have done so through the wrists. But the nailing of Jesus on the cross is something that only John reports and in fact, this is also quite problematic. As it happens, Romans were not in the habit of using nails. Rather, they would have actually simply tied the victims on the beam. This point is noted in ‘The People’s New Testament Commentary’:

“Crucifixion did not always involve nailing; its intent was that the victim dies slowly, not by loss of blood. Often the condemned was tied to the cross in an awkward position and hung there for days before dying. On the New Testament, only John specifically mentions nails; the shedding of Jesus’ blood was an essential part of John’s christology.” [3]

 

The earliest depictions of Jesus’ crucifixion also illustrates the victim with ropes that tie him to the cross without any nailing [4]:

When nails were envisioned in Jesus’ crucifixion, the entirety of Christian conceptualisations of the ordeal throughout Christian history has typically placed the nails in the hands, hence in the Catholic view of stigmata which some of their saints were said to have endured, the wounds of the nails would be exhibited or would occur in the region of the hands and never in the wrists. It is, therefore, safe to conclude that the overwhelming mainstream Christian reading of John 20:25  consistently excludes the wrists as the region through which nails were driven on their crucified Jesus.

The foregoing discussion makes it evident that the anonymous author of John 20:25, having not been a eyewitness to the happenings, invented a fictitious detail regarding the crucifixion, because he thought that was how Jesus would have been crucified and by doing so, he betrayed his ignorance of the events.

Notes:

[1] hand (n.d.). In Oxford English and Spanish Dictionary, Thesaurus, and Spanish to English Translator. Retrieved from https://www.lexico.com/definition/hand
[2] Regan, J. M., Shahlaie, K., & Watson, J. C. (2013). Crucifixion and median neuropathy. Brain and Behavior, 3(3): 243–248. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3683284/
[3] Boring, M. E., &Craddock, F. B. (2010). The People’s New Testament Commentary. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. p. 359
[4] White, L. M. (2010). Scripting Jesus: The Gospels in Rewrite. New York: HarperOne. p. 133
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3 Responses to “John 20:25 indicates that the author fabricated the crucifixion”

  1. Elizabeth says:

    John 20:25

    But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”

    26Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”

    28“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.

    29Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

    Then Jesus told him, “**You believe because you have seen me. **** Blessed are those who believe without seeing me

    • Tridax says:

      John 19:36 explicitly states no bones were broken


      These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken”

      Hence any piercing of the hands or arms should be ruled out lest the prophecy is considered a failed one as per John.

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