The letter quoted below was the first thing that met my eye in the current issue of the LRB. I didn't find it boring either, in fact it kept me happy for five stops on the Hurstbridge Line, even though I only wanted and intended to go four stops in the first place. (It was one of those ancient and decrepit de- then re-commissioned trains that were bought back from the man who had them all in his paddock, and on these trains they don't tell you what the next station is, which doesn't help.) It's pure ignorance of course but I couldn't tell whether it's an elaborate leg-pull or an actual hypothesis (or whether the reader is supposed to be able to tell the difference.) I quote it now, & thus initiate the end of this happy state of confused innocence, I suppose out of the familiar old self-sabotaging inability to know when to stop mucking around with something that's perfectly satisfactory as it is: no negative capability here thank you very much!
What Really Happened
From Dr Roger James
Frank Kermode does not include in his discussion of the resurrection the gospel reference that gives the best clue about the death and resurrection of Jesus, namely John 19.34: ‘Forthwith came there out blood and water’ (LRB, 20 March). There can be only one possible explanation for this happening after the spear had been thrust into his side: Jesus had a large pleural effusion, which the spear released. This diagnosis explains a good deal that is otherwise puzzling in the gospel stories. Although he had previously walked everywhere, Jesus needed an ass for his final entry into Jerusalem. Also, he was unable to carry his cross, which other men of his age could carry easily. A pleural effusion this size would have been accumulating for some time. It would have been tuberculous, and so Jesus would have been getting steadily weaker. It isn’t surprising that he felt ‘he was not long for this world.’
The story in John implies that the soldiers were surprised to find Jesus dead so soon. With the effusion pressing on his heart and his body fixed upright he would probably have gone into severe heart failure, and would have appeared dead even though his heart itself was perfectly sound. The spear blow that was expected to finish him off might actually have saved his life by relieving the pressure on his heart. Being laid horizontally would have allowed the blood and fluids pooled in his legs to return into circulation, a process assisted by the coolness of the tomb. He might, in these circumstances, have regained consciousness and thus have seemed to be resurrected.
Dr Roger James
Prompt crucifixion/entombment can save lives. Also, I especially liked the part about the ass.