Theology: The Suffocation of Christ

The Gospels say that after three hours of agony on the Cross, Jesus "yielded up his spirit." How, precisely, did he die? Not even Luke, who according to tradition was a doctor, offers an explanation, so it has generally been assumed that death came from the cumulative effect of the agony—thirst, heat, shock, and exhaustion. French Physician Jacques Bréhant, 59, who has been pursuing the elusive medical mystery of the Crucifixion for nearly 30 years, makes a more specific diagnosis: Jesus died of suffocation.

Bréhant, whose findings caused something of a stir in France when they were publicized recently in the...