A Doctor at Calvary (review)

A Doctor at Calvary (review)

I‘m not going to get into the Shroud of Turin controversy. If you want to see conflicting opinions, check out the wiki page. It’s like an article written by a split personality.

No, I’m focused this week on a book Pierre Barbet wrote back in 1953, a look at just what happened to Jesus once the Romans (and Jews) decided to dispose of him. Barbet takes the shroud and examines its photographs minutely, determining the result of every injury suffered by the person pictured in the shroud, the lashings, the thorned forehead, the nail holes, the spear in the side. Each of these he clinically looks at, examining the resulting physical injury and agonizing sufferings resultant from such abuses.

From my serious side, this book (regardless of what you might make of the controversy) will give you, not an appreciation, but a look into the depths of horrifying pain Jesus must have suffered. In the end, Barbet spools all the pieces together, detailing the physical assaults the Son of Christ endured over his final twenty-four hours as a man. I actually had to break away at one point and read something else, it was that brutal.

I’ll mention that as a historian, I found his entire description of how a crucifixion works (and the logical way he puts together its actual operation, looking at everything from Latin to the expectant laziness of executioners) fascinating. I was aware that many of the ancient races I have read about practiced this grim punishment but now I have a better idea of how it was actually done. I haven’t been this interested in ancient artifacts since researching triremes.

On the other hand, 1953 is a different world than today, especially in hospital administration and surgical ethics. Barbet actually describes (in grim detail) how he determined the exact method of nailing wrists (not palms) to wood by using the arms from fresh amputations and putting them under loading to see if they would tear apart. And he didn’t just do this once – he did it on numerous occasions. There are even X-ray photographs showing some of his studies. Clearly, this is up to the reader to determine if the ends justify the means.

A sober book, one which I would recommend to anyone seeking to broaden their understanding of ancient tortures or His sufferings.