How, exactly, did Jesus Christ die? Why did a soldier pierce Him with a spear when He was already dead?
The answer to this question might be quite surprising to some who have never heard the truth before. The fact is, a Roman soldier KILLED Christ by piercing His side with a spear. Notice what happened.
The following is excerpted from our free booklet, “Jesus Christ–A Great Mystery,” pages 78 and 79:
“How Did Christ Die?
“… Christ died by shedding His blood (Mark 14:24), and it is through His precious shed blood that we can be saved (1 Peter 1:18–19).
“When we read Matthew’s account, in the New King James Bible, we will not find exactly how Christ died. The reason is that this translation omits a crucial verse, at the end of Matthew 27:49. Several translations, as well as many old manuscripts, have retained this missing verse. For instance, verses 49 and 50 read in the Moffat translation: ‘But the others said, “Stop, let us see if Elijah does come to save him!” (Seizing a lance, another pricked [better, pierced] his side, and out came water and blood.) Jesus again uttered a loud scream, and gave up his spirit.’
“The Fenton Bible translates the missing verse as follows: ‘But another taking a spear pierced His side, when blood and water came out.’
“A.T. Robertson, Harmony of the Gospels, states in a footnote to Matthew 27:49: ‘Many ancient authorities add: And another took a spear and pierced his side, and there came out water and blood.’
“The Revised Standard Version, and the New Revised Standard Version, add the following footnote: ‘Other ancient authorities insert, And another took a spear and pierced his side, and out came water and blood.’
“The Vaticanus–a Greek New Testament written in the 300’s A.D.–contains the missing verse as well. It reads: ‘And another took a spear and pierced his side and there came forth water and blood.’ The Sinaiticus Codex also contains the verse, and so does the Codex Ephraemi. According to The Testament in Greek, by Wescott and Hort, published in 1896, the missing verse also appears in most Syrian, Egyptian, Armenian, Gothic, and Ethiopic translations. It also appears in Origen’s work [around 200 A.D.]. Walton’s Biblia Sacra Polyglotta, published in 1657, claims, in Vol. VI, on page 6 of the appendix, that this missing verse was still a marginal reading of the Greek text when the King James Version was made.”
Do we know WHY the inspired passage in Matthew 27:49 was deleted from the sacred text? The deletion occurred when a spurious version of the book of Matthew, which was allegedly written by Barnabas, was found, which did not include the passage in Matthew 27:49. Note the following excerpts from Westcott and Hort:
“In a letter partially preserved in Syriac… [Severus] mentions the reading [of the missing passage] as having been vigorously debated at Constantinople in connexion with the matter of the patriarch Macedonius, when the… [spurious] copy of… Matthew’s Gospel said to have been discovered in Cyprus with the body of… Barnabas in the reign of Zeno (?477) was consulted and found not to contain the sentence in question … at Constantinople the holy Gospels were by command of the emperor censored,” and the passage in question was deleted from the sacred text of the gospel according to Matthew.
Of course, no emperor–nor ANY MAN, for that purpose–has any divine authority to add to or delete from the Word of God. And so, God saw to it that the missing passage WAS preserved–and anyone with an open mind can read it today in its original form.
To continue with our quote from our booklet, “Jesus Christ–A Great Mystery“:
“We need to take note of an additional passage in John’s account. We read in John 19:32–34: ‘Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.’
“This Scripture, the way it is rendered, seems to say that the soldier pierced Christ’s side after He had already died. However, the word ‘pierced’ is in the aorist tense in the original Greek, designating a kind of action, not the time of action. It describes an action done at a single moment, and not continuously, but it does not tell us when the action takes place. Only the context can make this clear. Therefore, in John 19:34, the passage could also be correctly translated as, ‘But one of the soldiers HAD PIERCED His side with a spear.’ From the missing verse in Matthew 27:49, we know that John 19:34 has to be translated, in fact, in the past tense.”
There is, in addition, another possibility as to how to read this particular passage in John 19:30-34. It has been suggested that the original inspired ORDER of verses 30 – 34 was subsequently changed, and that the original reading of these verses was as follows:
“(30a) So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ (34) But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. (30b) And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. (31) Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. (32) Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. (33) But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.”
To conclude from our afore-mentioned booklet:
“Christ shed His blood and died when a soldier pierced His side… We also read, in Luke 2:34–35: ‘Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul ALSO), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”‘ Finally, Isaiah 53:5 prophesied about Christ: ‘But He was wounded [margin, pierced through] for our transgressions.’ The New Testament record confirms that this is how Christ died.”
Christ died when a soldier pierced His side with a spear. This fact is also confirmed in other passages in the Old and the New Testament. Zechariah 12:10, in referring to the return of Jesus Christ, elaborates on the importance of the exact nature of Christ’s death, stating: “… then they will look on Me whom they have pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.”
Some might argue that the reference to Christ being pierced might apply just to His hands and feet. The fact that His hands and feet were pierced is most certainly included. Psalm 22:16, 18 gives the following prophecy regarding the suffering Christ: “They pierced My hands and My feet… They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.”
However, the piercing includes much more, and is primarily describing the very nature and moment of His death–not only the time several hours before, when His crucifixion began. Christ CRIED out when the soldier pierced His side with the spear.
And so, we read in Revelation 1:7: “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.”
Lead Writer: Norbert Link