‘The Execution of Jesus the Christ’: Local neurosurgeon analyzes cause of death

Dr. Mark Kubala is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Texas. He did
‘The Execution of Jesus the Christ’: Local neurosurgeon analyzes cause of death

Every writer’s goal is to cause the reader to think about the work long after he has turned the last page. “The Execution of Jesus the Christ,” published by WestBow Press, a Division of Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, is one of the most thought-provoking books I have ever read. It was also one of the most unusual and difficult books I have ever read. What I mean by difficult is that I could well understand the language and the content, but reading about the death of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross in such vivid detail was overwhelming to me at times. I confided to Dr. Mark Kubala that I had to read portions, re-read those same paragraphs, and put the book aside for a brief time so that I could digest what I had comprehended.

Kubala’s new book is a compelling study in the agony, the history, and the actual death of Christ, divided into three main sections. The historical background gives Bible students and laymen alike a clear presentation of the times in which the crucifixion happened, the geography of Judea, the rulers in charge, the religious leaders, Jesus’s ministry, and a clear picture of the time line of events. Section two is the complete chronology of Jesus’s last week, the week before Passover, his going from king to criminal, the agony he endured, his arrest, illegal trial, the actual crucifixion and his death.

Section three deals with the medical aspects of the crucifixion and answers the question of why Jesus died so soon compared to others who were crucified in this awful form of punishment. We read of the agony in the garden, the scourging at the pillar, the crown of thorns, the carrying of the cross, the dying on that cross, and the miraculous resurrection.

“Medical opinion has varied about the ultimate cause of death,” writes the Most Rev. Joseph A. Fiorenza, Archbishop Emeritus of Galveston-Houston and Past President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “After three hours of hanging on the cross, he was exhausted from lack of sleep and loss of blood, dehydrated, and extremely weak. Asphyxiation seems to be the most common cause of death in crucifixion. However, some believe he died of a ruptured heart. But Dr. Kubala offers convincing medical evidence of a different sort into the ultimate cause of Jesus’ death on the cross.”

“As a critical care physician, I have been interested in the events leading up to the cross,” writes N. Jeff Alford, MD, Critical Care Specialist, of Beaumont. “Specifically, I have been interested in the medical issues surrounding the death of Jesus. There have been many theories regarding his death, including asphyxiation and myocardial infarction. Despite the good intentions of these theories, they all lack the detailed examination of the events. In ‘The Execution of Jesus the Christ,’ Dr. Kubala carefully examines these events documented in Scripture. Because of his vast knowledge of medicine, he is able to analyze the changes that took place in Jesus’ body as a result of the severe trauma he was subjected to during his Passion and crucifixion that led to such an early death. He presents a perspective not considered before. He bases his conclusions on sound medical reasoning and is able to add compelling points that only a physician with a vast experience treating critically ill trauma patients could discover.”

I was particularly impressed with the detailed description of the crown of thorns placed on the head of Jesus as they mocked and pretended to pay him homage. Every reference I have studied in the past gave the impression that it was indeed a crown of thorns, but Dr. Kubala points out that the head garment was much more like a hat. In Chapter 14, Dr. Kubala writes, “The plant used in plaiting or braiding the crown of thorns has been debated for centuries. Botanists have suggested different plants, two of which have been narrowed down as ‘Paliurus aculeatus’ and ‘Ziziphus spina-christi.’ Both of these plants are members of the buckthorn family and have thorns that are very stiff and sharp when dried. They are often used for kindling to light fires.” We read that the cap or crown likely had up to 70 of these sharp barbs, which caused such pain and blood loss and with every blow or movement, dug deeper into the scalp of the Lord.

Among the first things I learned when I met Dr. Kubala was that he could use both his right and left hand interchangeably and that he has a great sense of humor. He said being able to use both hands in the operating room is a big advantage. He still assists in surgery two days or more each week and he laughed and said, “Four hands in the operating room are far better than two and because I have been around a while, I do have some valuable information stored up here,” pointing to his head. While we were visiting he received a call from the office advising him of surgery at 10 a.m. the following day. “I get to do the fun stuff now,” he said. “I get to cut, stitch, and tie,” all things a good surgeon enjoys.

Dr. Kubala was born in East Bernard, Texas, son of Czech-German ancestors, and the first son to graduate college and the first to go on to medical school. He received his medical degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) Galveston. He completed his neurological surgical residency at Baylor University College of Medicine, Houston, which included a fellowship in neurology at the Mayo Clinic. He served in the U.S. Air Force at Wilford Hall Hospital, San Antonio. He has been in private practice of neurological surgery in Beaumont since 1966. He was certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgeons in 1968.

His interests, award, and commendations, both locally and nationally, are too numerous to mention in this one article, but he is a well-known and respected member of the medical community.

Dr. Kubala was happily married to Betty Fertitta Kubala for 55 years until her death in 2013. Together they reared four children: three sons, all of Austin, and a daughter. The couple has seven grandchildren. He is very loyal and active in his church — St. Anthony’s in Beaumont. 

It is evident that Dr. Kubala has a vibrant love of the Holy Land. When asked how he came to write this moving book, he told of a trip to the Holy Land in 2010 and another in 2013. While on the second trip, the leader asked him to give a brief history and account of some of the tour destinations and what they would likely see. He enjoyed the presentation, and others seemed to as well, because after arriving back in Texas, several suggested that he put his knowledge into a book so that more could enjoy and profit from his more than 50 years of study. 

The book has received wide praise from Christians, church leaders, and laymen alike.

Dr. Kubala is a wonderful host and laughs often even though he deals with such serious subjects in trauma surgery and in his book. He told about requiring the folks in the operating room to listen to country legends — George Jones, Merle Haggard, and Willie — among his favorites. He also loves gospel music and particularly Bill and Gloria Gaither. He has a framed plaque on his office wall with a wonderful photo of legendary Texan George Jones and personal greeting to him when he was presented with the American Heart Association award. Jones wrote, “It gives me so much pleasure to know that you work your magic in the operating room listening to my music. I am honored and humbled.”

Dr. Kubala says Dr. J. Dan Schuhman was the family doctor in the small town where he was reared. “He could do everything,” said Dr. Kubala. “He influenced me to want to become a doctor and I studied and set my course.” 

I asked Dr. Kubala what he had learned from writing and presenting this book, and he answered very humbly, “I have learned that when I am personally tempted to stray or do wrong in any way, I think of what Christ did for me on the cross. I see the picture that I have written about in my book and I simply think better of doing whatever it was that had crossed my mind. I cannot afford to sadden him after what he did for us in bringing salvation to every man and woman.”

“The Execution of Jesus the Christ” can be purchased in local bookstores or at Amazon.com.

Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788 or at brendacannonhenley [at] yahoo [dot] com.