I’ve seen some recent interviews with Tesoriero where he says that the scientists examining his rotten communion wafer found that the heart tissue was from 3 days after a heart attack because Jesus was resurrected after 3 days. There are a couple of issues with this I would like to address.

Is 3 Days Really 3 Days?

The first issue is that when Dr. Zugibe said 3 days, he said “The dating of the injury is derived from the finding a [sic] predominance of chronic inflammatory cells, degenerative changes of the myocardium with loss of striations, pyknosis of the nuclei, etc.”. So the chronic inflammatory cells (macrophages) were predominant. Macrophages are the clean up crew, their job is largely cleaning up dead cells, and they dominate from 72 to 168 hours after heart damage. Before 72 hours, the dominant white blood cells would be neutrophils. Zugibe does say he saw “smaller numbers of acute inflammatory cells (white blood cells primarily polymorphonuclear leukocytes)” which would include neutrophils, which is likely why he put it on the earlier end of that range. I have not seen any images that appear to show neutrophils, nor have I seen a quote from anyone else about neutrophils. Regardless, the “3 days” Dr. Zugibe is talking about is about a 72 hour period, or three 24 hour days.

However, according to the Catholic Church, Jesus died just before sunset on Friday, and was resurrected around sunrise on Sunday. That’s only about 36 hours. Thirty-six hours after heart damage the tissue would still be dominated by neutrophils, not macrophages. Even if the heart damage happened earlier in the day, at the scourging, that would be what, 42 hours? Even if it was right at dawn, sunrise to sunrise is only 48 hours, and the trial was after sunrise. There’s no way the “3 days” the Catholic Church refers to could line up with the “3 days” Dr. Zugibe meant.

There are some Protestant groups that propose that Jesus was crucified on Thursday, arguing that 36 hours doesn’t match the “3 days and 3 nights” from Matthew 12:40. If the heart damage was from when Jesus was scourged, not the actual crucifixion, that could push it back to Thursday morning. It still couldn’t be a full 72 hours, because the scourging was after the trial, but that might get close to 72 hours. But I’ve never heard of a Catholic, or even someone promoting the Real Presence in the Eucharist, who believes in a Thursday Crucifixion.

There are also some rare Protestant groups that propose a full 72 hours between the crucifixion and resurrection. They propose that Jesus was crucified on Wednesday and resurrected Saturday evening (on the sabbath), and the tomb was empty overnight until it was discovered in the morning. This timeline would certainly match up with Zugibe’s timeline, but these groups are vehemently anti-Catholic, opposed to the Real Presence in the Eucharist, and also opposed to celebrating the resurrection on Sunday instead of the Saturday sabbath. So I think it’s very unlikely that they would believe in a Eucharistic miracle happening at a Sunday morning mass in a Catholic Church.

As a Catholic, I assume Tesoriero believes Jesus was resurrected about 36 hours after he was crucified and less than 48 hours after he was scourged. Therefore, the timeline would not be compatible with the 72 hours suggested by Zugibe.

What would a resurrected heart look like?

The second issue is that Zugibe was saying that the heart looked like a heart that had continued beating for 3 days after it was damaged. But presumably Tesoriero doesn’t think Jesus’s heart continued to beat after his crucifixion. It’s hard to say scientifically what a heart from a body that was dead for 3 days then miraculously resurrected would look like at the moment of resurrection. But of all the weird things I might expect, a heart showing evidence of chronic inflammation seems especially unlikely.

The tissue doesn’t look healthy like it’s been miraculously replaced. But it also doesn’t look like it’s from a dead body. It looks like it’s been going through the slow, controlled processes our body uses to heal. Lots of individual cells are dying or dead, but they are dying in the controlled way our body uses to heal (apoptosis1), not bursting open and spilling the contents of the cell around to cause more damage (necrosis). That requires oxygen, which means a beating heart and breathing lungs, so a person that is still living.

If the resurrection magically healed everything, then I wouldn’t expect the body to contain any dead or dying tissue at all. But that doesn’t seem to match the Bible’s idea of resurrection, because in John Jesus still has wounds, or at least scars, in his hands and feet. Thomas Aquinas says “For Bede says on Luke 24:40 that He kept His scars not from inability to heal them, ‘but to wear them as an everlasting trophy of His victory.’ Hence Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xxii): ‘Perhaps in that kingdom we shall see on the bodies of the Martyrs the traces of the wounds which they bore for Christ’s name: because it will not be a deformity, but a dignity in them; and a certain kind of beauty will shine in them, in the body, though not of the body.’” So maybe he also wanted to keep a scar on his heart as some kind of trophy?

OK, but then when is this trophy from? If he left his heart, or part of his heart, as it was after being dead for 3 days, all of the cells would have been dead and digested. If he kept it as it was after the scourging, only the tissue damaged by traumatic injury would be dead, and they would be necrotic. For the apoptosis observed by Zugibe to occur, there would have to be cells that the body had directed to die in a controlled manner because they could not be saved. That takes at least 18 hours. But there weren’t 18 hours between scourging and death. Did Jesus want a trophy of some hypothetical state his body would be in if he survived the crucifixion? That seems like an odd choice of miracle. And what message would he be trying to send by having a wafer turn into that in 1996?

Then there are the white blood cells. In some of the videos you can see Zugibe’s puzzlement about where the white blood cells would have come from in the Eucharist. The macrophages he was seeing would have been produced in the bone marrow or spleen and recruited to the heart in response to the damage.

When Tesoriero says that the tissue on the Eucharist reflects the “the moment of resurrection” I imagine he means around the very first heartbeat. Which means there would be no time for those blood cells to be naturally recruited to the damaged tissue.

The white blood cells in the heart and blood would have died shortly after the body died. I guess a resurrection would have to replace them so the body could survive, but I would expect they’d be replaced either in the cells where white blood cells are formed, or distributed like they would be in a healthy human? Why would God make them appear exactly like they would in someone recovering from a heart attack?

None of this makes any sense to me.

1Fungi go through an apoptosis-like process during aging and reproduction, so no, this doesn’t tell us anything about the type of cells we’re looking at.