Doubting ThomasAfter giving my recent lectures on the topic of The Historical Reliability of the New Testament at my church I added one new short section to my free ebook.

In the section arguing in favor of the New Testament being eyewitness testimony:

The New Testament includes certain incidental details that would be hard to comprehend unless they are the result of eyewitness testimony. One example is recorded in John 19:34. After Jesus dies on the cross, John notes that “one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.” Death by crucifixion occurred due to two primary causes: hypovolemic shock and exhaustion asphyxia (asphyxiation).  One consequence of the person going into hypovolemic shock and also being asphyxiated (unable to draw in breath) was that water would collect around the pericardium, the sac surrounding the heart. Thus when the Roman soldier stabbed Jesus’ side with the spear (which was not common procedure for crucifixions) the wall of the pericardium was pierced, resulting in a flow of both blood from the heart itself and water from the surrounding sac.

Even though he would have no idea why he saw blood and water pour out, John’s description of the scene is entirely consistent with modern medical conclusions about what would have happened. How could John have known that if a person who had just been crucified were stabbed in the chest that blood and water would run out unless he (or someone else who was there) witnessed it? John would have had none of this modern medical knowledge; he merely recorded what he saw. Details of this sort strongly indicate that the New Testament is a result of eyewitness testimony regarding the events it describes.

Main source: William D. Edwards, Wesley J. Gabel, and Floyd E. Hosmer, “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ,” Journal of the American Medical Association, vol 255, No. 11, 21 March 1986, 1461-1463.

See also: Lee Strobel, Case for Christ, 198-200, and Gary Habermas, The Historical Jesus, 74.