Only within modern times have forensic experts and researchers attempted to determine what would have been the physiological cause of a victim's death by crucifixion. In one terrible irony, experimentation at the Nazi death camp at Dachau, involving suspending victims by the hands, was believed to support theories that the cause of death would most likely have been an agonizing asphyxiation.
Archaeologists have confirmed that both the hands and the feet of crucifixion victims were pinned to the cross by nails about a half-inch in diameter.
"There is no way to allay the pain … you can't push up with your body, to get in a position where you can breathe better, where you feel like you could get a lung full of air, or you could abate the pain," Strange says.
Gospel accounts give three different versions of the last words of Jesus. Matthew and Mark quote him as crying, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" In Luke, he prays, "Father, into your hands I place my spirit." In John, he says, "It is finished."
Murphy-O'Connor says Jesus could not have mustered more than a gasp for air after being nailed to the cross and the final words are attributed to Jesus "probably to bring out meaning in the event."