Where were the nail-prints in Jesus’ hands – in his wrists or his palms?

This question was raised last Saturday during a day conference on biblical archaeology at Tyndale House in Cambridge. Put simply the problem was stated as follows:

Crucifixion normally involved nailing the victim to a horizontal beam through the wrist between the radius and the ulna (the two bones of the forearm). The nail was then firmly trapped by the carpals from ripping out of the hand between the fingers. If the victim were nailed through the palm of the hand the weight of the suspended body would simply cause the nail to pull through the flesh between the metacarpals. That much seems clear. However, in John 20:27 Jesus commands Thomas to:

“…See my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” [Italics mine]

Surely, the argument goes, if the nail marks where in Jesus’ wrists then he would have told Thomas to look there for them and not in his hands?

A Possible Solution to the Location of the Nail Prints

I think the answer to the problem is fairly straightforward, once we look at the Greek text. The Greek word for hand – χειρ – which is used twice in the passage cited above means “A hand or any relevant portion of the hands, including, for example, the fingers.” (Nida & Louw, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, Vol. 1, p. 98.). The question is whether the word “hand” in Greek also included the wrist. The word “wrist” or “wrists” appears only in Acts 12:7 in the NIV New Testament. In the Old Testament it appears twice in the Genesis 38:27 & 30, in Jeremiah 40:4 and Ezekiel 13:18. In Acts 12:7 and in the Septuagint of the OT verses the “wrist” is a translation of χειρ. So, it would seem that “wrist” was included within the semantic range of χειρ and so the problem seems to be solved. John 20:27 could quite accurately be translated: “…See my wrists. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Nida & Louw note that there is a precedent for using a specific body part in place of the general term “hand”. Luke 15:22 reads “…Put a ring on his χειρ…” χειρ here is to be translated finger, not hand.

Gospel Perspectives Vol 1 – Your chance to choose an article

The British Library have just supplied me with a copy of Gospel Perspectives, Vols 1: Studies of History and Tradition in the Four Gospels. R.T. France & David Wenham, eds. JSOT Press, 1980. Please vote for your favourite article by 21st December – remember to say why you think it is the best. The article by Rainer Riesner is not included below because it is in German.

F.F. Bruce, “The Trial of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel,” pp.7-20.

Bruce Chilton, “Targumic Transmission and Dominical Tradition,” pp.21-46.

Peter H. Davids, “The Gospels and Jewish Tradition: Twenty Years After Gerhardsson,” pp.75-100.

R.T. France, “Mark and the Teaching of Jesus,” pp.101-137.

Sydney H.T. Page, “The Authenticity of the Ransom Logion (Mark 10:45b),” pp.137-162.

Phillip Barton Payne, “The Authenticity of the Parable of the Sower and its Interpretation,” pp.163-208.

Robert H. Stein, “The ‘Criteria’ For Authenticity,” pp.225-263.

Thanks in advance for your input.

Gospel Perspectives Vol 5 – Your chance to choose an article

Below is the Table of Contents from Gospel Perspectives, Vol 5: The Jesus Tradition Outside the Gospels. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1984. As below, please vote by 15th December. Gerhard Maier’s article is not listed as it is in German.

David Wenham, “Paul’s Use of the Jesus Tradition: Three Samples,” pp.7-38.

Peter Richardson & Peter Gooch, “Logia of Jesus in 1 Corinthians,” pp.39-62.

Peter H. Davids, “James and Jesus,” 63-84.

G.K. Beale, “The Use of Daniel in the Synoptic Eschatological Discourse and in the Book of Revelation,” pp.129-154.

Bruce Chilton, “The Gospel According to Thomas as a Source of Jesus’ Teaching,” pp.155-176.

Craig L. Blomberg, “Tradition and Redaction in the Parables of the Gospel of Thomas,” pp.177-206.

David F. Wright, “Apocryphal Gospels: The ‘Unknown Gospel’ (Pap. Egerton 2) and the Gospel of Peter,” pp.207-232.

Donald A. Hagner, “The Sayings of Jesus in the Apostolic Fathers and Justin Martyr,” pp.233-268.

Jonathan Draper, “The Jesus Traditon in the Didache,” pp.269-288.

Graham H. Twelftree, “Jesus in Jewish Traditions,” pp. 289-342.

Murray J. Harris, “References to Jesus in Early Classical Authors,” pp.343-368.

Richard Bauckham, “The Study of Gospel Traditions Outside the Canonical Gospels: Problems and Prospects,” 369-404.