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Mark 15:44

ESV Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead.
NIV Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died.
NASB Now Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead.
CSB Pilate was surprised that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had already died.
NLT Pilate couldn’t believe that Jesus was already dead, so he called for the Roman officer and asked if he had died yet.
KJV And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead.

What does Mark 15:44 mean?

Crucifixion typically kills by asphyxiation. Some victims are tied, others are nailed. Those nailed are impaled such that major blood vessels and bones are intact, but nerves are pierced. Early in the process, a strong victim can hold his weight up by pressing against the nails in his hands and feet. As he grows weaker, he droops, hanging from his hands. In that position, it is impossible to take a breath. As exhaustion, infection, dehydration, and blood loss set in, choking to death on one's own fluids is inevitable. It typically takes two or three days for a crucifixion victim to tire enough that he cannot lift his weight to breathe. The executioners' "merciful" alternative is to break the victims' legs so they die more quickly.

John sets the scene with more detail (John 19:31–37). The soldiers could let the three linger, but twilight brings the Sabbath, when no work, including burying the dead, can be done. The Jewish leaders ask Pilate to allow the soldiers to break the legs of the thieves and Jesus. Pilate agrees, but when the soldiers approach Jesus, the expert killers realize He is already dead. To make sure—and to pacify others—one guard pierces His side with a spear. Blood and water drain out, indicating He has died from some combination of blood loss and fluid buildup around the heart and lungs.

This spearing also serves to punctuate the undeniable fact of Jesus' death. This is not a small poke—it's a killing stroke specifically meant to ensure, beyond doubt, that the victim is dead. A chest wound gushing blood and fluid means the soldier's thrust likely penetrated through Jesus' lungs and into His heart.

John makes an interesting statement about this act of the soldier. He says, "He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe" (John 19:35). Partially, John wants his readers to know that none of Jesus' bones are broken, in accordance with the prophecy of Psalm 34:20, and that He is pierced, as Zechariah 12:10 foretold. But John is also strongly testifying against the claim that Jesus merely "swooned" or fell unconscious on the cross and did not die. There is no indication in Scripture that anyone in the first century thought Jesus did not actually die, but that theory is spread today. John asserts such a claim is absolutely false.
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