Friday, May 24, 2013

David Mirsch's "Open Tomb," Part 6

To close out our series on David Mirsch’s The Open Tomb, we have a record of observations on his chapter arguing that Jesus faked his death through the use of drugs. I’ll explain about about the contexts, then relate some points provided by Dr. Ted Noel, an anesthesiologist of many years’ experience.

Mirsch argues at one point that drugs have been applied transdermally (to the skin). Dr. Noel comments on this and other matters related to the administration of drugs:

His argument about transdermal application is a sign that he doesn't understand the method. Transdermal application is sensitive to area of application and duration of application. The only known toxin that could work as fast as needed to be swoonderful is tetrodotoxin, and it would kill in seconds. The hours on the cross negate that possibility as well as the unavailability
of the toxin.

Capsicum is used to make some drugs move transcutaneously, but it's such an irritant (capsaicin - pepper spray!) that it's not useful in medicine. The other alkaloids don't move transcutaneously very well.

He also ignores the nature of anointing to try to make his point. Further, blood flow in the feet is significantly less than any other part of the body. He claims it's equal to the scalp which is patently false.

Just for fun, consider the Fentanyl Oralet. It's a lollipop with fentanyl, a narcotic 100 times more potent than Morphine. It is well absorbed across mucous membranes. Yet it takes a lollipop in the mouth for a number of minutes to get the drug absorbed.

Second, Gall was a common soporific given to most crucifixion victims. This means that the conversation between Jesus and the thieves would have been impossible.

Mirsch offered some arguments regarding the release of “blood and water” by the spear thrust. Dr. Noel comments:

Determining death is really easy. The spear in the side let fractionated blood flow out. The spear pierced the heart, and the blood in its chambers had been settling. A unit of blood left to sit will take some time to spontaneously fractionate, probably an hour or more. Jesus had been dead for a while when the spear went in. The bit about "pericardial fluid" is nonsense. He didn't have a pericardial effusion. BTW, he's right about effusions taking a while to develop. I'm surprised he survived a 900 ml effusion from pleural-pericardial syndrome. … Severely anemic people (and I've seen my share) bleed blood that is thinner and lighter red. It doesn't fractionate as he proposes.

Mirsch also wrongly calls the spear thrust a coup de grace. This is wrong: It was done to verify death, not cause it.

A "dissected lung" does NOT act as a sponge. [Mirsch] needs to watch thoracic surgery.

Mirsch also suggests Jesus had hemolytic anemia. Dr. Noel says:

"Hemolytic anemia" is special pleading. There's no evidence of anemia before the cross. Look at the geography of the Jericho road. An anemic man could not hike the 4000' foot rise from  Jericho to Jerusalem… There are multiple causes, and tyramine (a bodily compound Mirsch notes as effective in the situation) affects only one of them.

Another of zMirsch’s critical points is that Jesus suffered from favism – a reaction to fava beans. Mirsch suggests that fava beans may have been part of the Passover bread Jesus ate. Dr. Noel points out that there the species of grain regarded as chametz (leaven) which are described in the Mishnah include three types of wheat and two types of barley. Fava beans aren’t known anywhere in the list; the translation of “beans” in Ezekiel’s bread is speculative.

One of Mirsch’s arguments is that Mark himself suggests Jesus at leavened bread (as noted above) and not unleavened bread. He bases this on a distinction between the words artos and azumos.  I addressed this in a reply to anti-missionary Uri Yosef:

Yosef's formerly third (now fourth) category is, "Celebrating Pesakh/Passover." Noting that the seder requires unleavened bread, Yosef objects:

Yet, as we read the Gospel accounts of the last supper, we find Jesus and his disciples eating ordinary bread...One may want to argue that the NT authors meant unleavened bread. However, upon checking these accounts in the Greek language, it is evident that the word for 'unleavened bread' is "azumos" (e.g., Mt 26:17; Mk 14:1,12; Lk 22:1,7). The Greek scriptures use the word for ordinary leavened bread, "artos", for what was consumed at the last supper (Mt 26:26; Mk 14:22; Lk 24:30).
Of course one may ask, if this is so, who else violated some laws, since Jews were supposed to not even have such bread around for Jesus to buy. But this argument, which seems to appear often on anti-missionary sites, misses something important. Azumos is not a word for "unleavened bread" but just a word for "unleavened," period, as in 1 Cor. 5:7:

Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
Paul says to his readers, "You are unleavened"! Is he saying they are made of bread? Of course not. Artos is a word for all bread, with or without leaven, and does not tell us any such thing as Yosef suggests.

Mirsch also suggests that Jesus "had taken an herbal anti-hemorrhagic." Dr. Noel replies:

That's again pure speculation. The only possible one I can think of is ephedrine, but that's derived from a Chinese plant that isn't found in Palestine. Another possibility would be ergot, but that's from a mold, and Passover bread would not be old enough to mold. None of these would have a material effect on a Roman flogging. They just aren't capable of reducing the bleeding from major open wounds.

Shepherd's purse (alos listed by Mirsch) is listed by WebMD. It says that is "might reduce bleeding." That means that the effect is small, if it is even present.

Mirsch also suggests a role for the belladonna plant. Dr. Noel responds:

He demonstrates a complete ignorance of the pharmacology of the belladonna alkaloids. Atropine and it close relatives don't cause a comatose appearance. They cause severe tachycardia and hallucinations, not the appearance of death. If they cause death, it's the real thing, not fake. As for the opium alkaloids, while they were known, they are slow in onset. Jesus died right after the second wine. A massive dose of opium is required to get an onset within ten minutes via the oral route. That large dose would case apnea and death shortly after.

Finally, Mirsch suggests a rapid revival by Jesus. Dr. Noel says:

We can't even do that now! During the early days of medicine there were lots of claims that didn't prove out. Peer review in medical journals was in its infancy. His source is simply wrong. We can get people to sleep quickly, but the ONLY way we can wake them up is to let the drugs wear off naturally. Period.

Thus closes our look at Mirsch’s Open Tomb. I think it should remain buried.

1 comment:

  1. Ha! I didn't think anything could top Cavin's "twin theory," but Mirsch's proposal just might do it. Other atheists should be embarrassed that theories like this are being proffered. Anything to avoid having to recognize Jesus as Lord, it seems.