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I am writing this article to clear up a common misunderstanding about the wounds in Christ's hands. Often in artwork, statues, and crucifixes the wounds in Christ's hands are depicted as being in the middle of the palm of the hand. A number of anatomists and medical experts have disputed this common assumption. The reason is that a nail through the middle of the palm of a man's hand would not be sufficient to hold most of the weight of a man on a cross. The nail would tear through the hand.
The placement of the nails in crucifixion was most likely in the wrist, in a place between the wrist bones which is called the "space of Destot" (Barbet, Pierre. 1963. A Doctor at Calvary. New York: Image). This location would allow the nails to support the weight of an adult man because the ligaments which join the 8 wrist bones (carpal bones) are thicker and stronger than those which connect the bones of the palm (metacarpal bones). (See the AMA's web site on anatomy: http://www.ama-assn.org/insight/gen_hlth/atlas/newatlas/hand.htm)
An analysis of the Shroud of Turin, which many believe to be the actual burial shroud of Jesus Christ, shows a blood print in the location of the bones of the wrist (see the shroud.com web site: http://www.shroud.com/meacham2.htm). This analysis is in agreement with those medical experts who conclude that the nails of crucifixion would have to be placed between the wrist bones in order to support the weight of a man. Furthermore, a nail placed through the space of Destot (between the wrist bones) would injure the Median nerve and likely cause the thumb to turn inward. On the Shroud of Turin, Christ's thumbs are not visible, perhaps for this very reason.
Many people think that the wounds in Christ's hands must have been made in His wrists, that is, in the location most people call the wrist, where one might wear a wristwatch. This is a widespread misunderstanding. All 8 bones of the wrist (the carpal bones) are located in the heel of the hand, at the part of the palm of the hand closest to the forearm. Wristwatches are actually worn on the anatomical forearm (even though it is called the wrist), not on one's anatomical wrist. When medical experts claim that the nails of Christ's Crucifixion must have been driven through His wrists, they mean the anatomical wrist in the heel of the hand. (See the labeled x-rays of a human hand on this web site: http://www.pixelworks.com.ph/shroud/crucifixion.htm#nailed).
Some artists have depicted the nails of Christ's Crucifixion as being placed in what is commonly called the wrist. These depictions are the result of a misunderstanding. The space of Destot, where most medical experts claim that the nails were placed, is located between the first and second row of wrist bones (carpal bones) in the heel of the hand (Lamberto Schiatti, The Shroud, A Guide to the Reading of an Image Full of Mystery, Alba House). Most artwork and most crucifixes incorrectly place the wounds in Christ's hands in either the middle of the palm or in what is commonly called the wrist. The correct location of the wounds in Christ's hands was most likely the heel of the hand.
Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich was shown visions from God of Christ's Crucifixion. She describes Christ being nailed through the palm of the hand, but does not say what part of the palm (The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, TAN Books and Publishers, p. 271). Her visions contradict those who would claim that the nails went through the place commonly called the wrist.
Saint Bridget of Sweden also received visions of the Crucifixion. She is more specific. She states: "they transfixed His hand in the part where the bone was firmest." (Revelations to St. Bridget, TAN Books and Publishers, p. 45). The part of the hand where the bones are the firmest is the heel of the hand.
Sacred Scripture supports the idea that the wounds of Christ's hands were in the palm of the hand, and not in what is commonly called the wrist. "Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here, and see my hands….' " (John 20:27). " 'See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself….' And when he had said this he showed them his hands and his feet." (Luke 24:39-40). Notice that Jesus asks Thomas and the other Apostles to examine His hands, not His wrists.
-- by Ronald L. Conte Jr.
This article is © Copyright 2000 by Ronald L. Conte Jr.