Chapter 14 | Table
of Contents | Chapter 16
The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
THE CROSS AND THE CROWN
'CRUCIFIED, DEAD, AND BURIED.'
(St. Matthew 27:31-43: St. Mark
15:20-32(a); St. Luke 23:26-38; St. John 19:16-24; St. Matthew
28:44; St. Mark 15:32(b); St. Luke 23:39-43; St. John
19:25-27; St. Matthew 27:45-56; St. Mark 15:33-41; St. Luke
23:44-49; St. John 19:28-30; St. John 19:31-37; St. Matthew
27:57-61; St. Mark 15:42-47; St. Luke 23:50-56; St. John
19:38-42; St. Matthew 27:62-66.)
It matters little as regards their guilt, whether, pressing the
language of St. John,1
we are to understand that Pilate delivered Jesus to the Jews to be crucified,
or, as we rather infer, to his own soldiers. This was the common practice, and
it accords both with the Governor's former taunt to the Jews,2
and with the after-notice of the Synoptists. They, to whom He was 'delivered,'
'led Him away to be crucified:' and they who so led Him forth 'compelled' the
Cyrenian Simon to bear the Cross. We can scarcely imagine, that the Jews, still
less the Sanhedrists, would have done this. But whether formally or not, the
terrible crime of slaying, with wicked hands, their Messiah-King rests, alas,
John xix. 16.
Once more was He unrobed and robed. The purple robe was torn
from His Wounded Body, the crown of thorns from His Bleeding Brow. Arrayed
again in His own, now blood-stained, garments, He was led forth to execution.
Only about two hours and a half had passed3
since the time that He had first stood before Pilate (about half-past six),4
when the melancholy procession reached Golgotha (at nine o'clock a.m.).
In Rome an interval, ordinarily of two days, intervened between a sentence and
its execution; but the rule does not seem to have applied to the provinces,5
if, indeed, in this case the formal rules of Roman procedure were at all
Mark xv. 95.
John xix. 25.
evidence is collected by Nebe, u. s. vol. ii. p. 166, 167.
The terrible preparations were soon made: the hammer, the
nails, the Cross, the very food for the soldiers who were to watch under each
soldiers would be detailed for each Cross, the whole being under the command of
a centurion. As always, the Cross was borne to the execution by Him Who was to
suffer on it - perhaps His Arms bound to it with cords. But there is happily no
evidence - rather, every indication to the contrary - that, according to
ancient custom, the neck of the Sufferer was fastened within the patibulum,
two horizontal pieces of wood, fastened at the end, to which the hands were
bound. Ordinarily, the procession was headed by the centurion,7
or rather, preceded by one who proclaimed the nature of the crime,8
and carried a white, wooden board, on which it was written. Commonly, also, it
took the longest road to the place of execution, and through the most crowded
streets, so as to attract most public attention. But we would suggest, that
alike this long circuit and the proclamation of the herald were, in the present
instance, dispensed with. They are not hinted at in the text, and seem
incongruous to the festive season, and the other circumstances of the history.
seems to imagine that, not indeed the whole 'cohort,' but a manipulus of
about 120, or a centuria of about 60 men, accompanied the procession.
But of this there is not evidence, and all indications lead to a contrary
calls him Longinus.
was the Jewish practice also (Sanh. vi. 2). At the same time it must be
remembered, that this was chiefly to elicit testimony in favour of the
criminal, when the execution would be immediately arrested; and also that, as
the Sanhedrin had, for centuries before the redaction of the Mishnah, been
deprived of the power of life and death, such descriptions read very like ideal
arrangements. But the practice seems also to have been Roman ('per præconem
Discarding all later legendary embellishments,9
as only disturbing, we shall try to realise the scene as described in the
Gospels. Under the leadership of the centurion, whether or not attended by one
who bore the board with the inscription, or only surrounded by the four
soldiers, of whom one might carry this tablet, Jesus came forth bearing His
Cross. He was followed by two malefactors - 'robbers' - probably of the class
then so numerous, that covered its crimes by pretensions of political motives.
These two, also, would bear each his cross, and probably be attended each by
four soldiers. Crucifixion was not a Jewish mode of punishment, although the
Maccabee King Jannæus had so far
forgotten the claims of both humanity and religion as on one occasion to crucify
not less than 800 persons in Jerusalem itself.10
But even Herod, with all cruelty, did not resort to this mode of execution. Nor
was it employed by the Romans till after the time of Cæsar, when, with the fast
increasing cruelty of punishments, it became fearfully common in the provinces.
Especially does it seem to characterise the domination of Rome in Judæa under
every Governor. During the last siege of Jerusalem hundreds of crosses daily
arose, till there seemed not sufficient room nor wood for them, and the
soldiery diversified their horrible amusement by new modes of crucifixion. So
did the Jewish appeal to Rome for the Crucifixion of Israel's King come back in
hundredfold echoes. But, better than such retribution, the Cross of the God-Man
hath put an end to the punishment of the cross, and instead, made the Cross the
symbol of humanity, civilisation, progress, peace, and love.
as concerning Veronica and the bearing of the Virgin-Mother (Acta Pilati, vii.
x.; Mors Pilati [Tischendorf] 433).
Ant. xiii. 14, 2; War i, 4, 6.
As mostly all abominations of the ancient world, whether in
religion or life, crucifixion was of Phoenician origin, although Rome adopted,
and improved on it. The modes of execution among the Jews were: strangulation,
beheading, burning, and stoning. In all ordinary circumstances the Rabbis were
most reluctant to pronounce sentence of death. This appears even from the
injunction that the Judges were to fast on the day of such a sentence.11
Indeed, two of the leading Rabbis record it, that no such sentence would ever
have been pronounced in a Sanhedrin of which they had been members. The
indignity of hanging - and this only after the criminal had been otherwise
executed - was reserved for the crimes of idolatry and blasphemy.12
The place where criminals were stoned (Beth haSeqilah) was on an
elevation about eleven feet high, from whence the criminal was thrown down by
the first witness. If he had not died by the fall, the second witness would
throw a large stone on his heart as he lay. If not yet lifeless, the whole
people would stone him.13
At a distance of six feet from the place of execution the criminal was
undressed, only the covering absolutely necessary for decency being left.1415
In the case of Jesus we have reason to think that, while the mode of punishment
to which He was subjected was un-Jewish, every concession would be made to
Jewish custom, and hence we thankfully believe that on the Cross He was spared
the indignity of exposure. Such would have been truly un-Jewish.16
application of Lev. xix. 26, Sanh. 63 a.
explains how 'the witnesses' at the stoning of St. Stephen laid down their
garments at the feet of Paul.
vi. 3, 4.
opinion, however, was not shared by the majority of Rabbis. But, as already
stated, all those notices are rather ideal than real.
to the Rabbis, when we read in Scripture generally of the punishment of death,
this refers to the lighest, or strangulation (Sanh. 52 b). Another mode
of execution reads like something between immuring alive and starvation (Sanh.
81 b) - something like the manner in which in the Middle Ages people
were starved to death.
Three kinds of Cross were in use: the so-called St. Andrew's
Cross (x, the Crux decussata), the Cross in the form of a T (Crux
Commissa), and the ordinary Latin Cross (+, Crux immissa). We
believe that Jesus bore the last of these. This would also most readily admit
of affixing the board with the threefold inscription, which we know His Cross
bore. Besides, the universal testimony of those who lived nearest the time (Justin
Martyr, Irenæus, and others), and who, alas! had only too much
occasion to learn what crucifixion meant, is in favour of this view. This
Cross, as St. John expressly states, Jesus Himself bore at the outset. And so
the procession moved on towards Golgotha. Not only the location, but even the
name of that which appeals so strongly to every Christian heart, is matter of
controversy. The name cannot have been derived from the skulls which lay about,
since such exposure would have been unlawful, and hence must have been due to
the skull-like shape and appearance of the place. Accordingly, the name is
commonly explained as the Greek form of the Aramæan Gulgalta, or the
Hebrew Gulgoleth, which means a skull.
Such a description would fully correspond, not only to the
requirements of the narrative, but to the appearance of the place which, so far
as we can judge, represents Golgotha. We cannot here explain the various
reasons for which the traditional site must be abandoned. Certain it is, that
Golgotha was 'outside the gate,'17
and 'near the City.'18
In all likelihood it was the usual place of execution. Lastly, we know that it
was situated near gardens, where there were tombs, and close to the highway.
The three last conditions point to the north of Jerusalem. It must be
remembered that the third wall, which afterwards surrounded Jerusalem, was not
built till several years after the Crucifixion. The new suburb of Bezetha
extended at that time outside the second wall. Here the great highway passed
northwards; close by, were villas and gardens; and here also rockhewn
sepulchres have been discovered, which date from that period. But this is not
all. The present Damascus Gate in the north of the city seems, in most ancient
tradition, to have borne the name of St. Stephen's Gate, because the
Proto-Martyr was believed to have passed through it to his stoning. Close by,
then, must have been the place of execution. And at least one Jewish tradition
fixes upon this very spot, close by what is known as the Grotto of Jeremiah, as
the ancient 'place of stoning' (Beth haSeqilah). And the description of
the locality answers all requirements. It is a weird, dreary place, two or
three minutes aside from the high road, with a high, rounded, skull-like rocky
plateau, and a sudden depression or hollow beneath, as if the jaws of the skull
had opened. Whether or not the 'tomb of the Herodian period in the rocky knoll
to the west of Jeremiah's Grotto' was the most sacred spot upon earth - the
'Sepulchre in the Garden,' we dare not positively assert, though every
probability attaches to it.19
John xix. 20.
view was first propounded by Thenius, and afterwards advocated by Furrer
(Wander. d. Paläst, pp. 70, &c.), but afterwards given up by him. As to the
locality, comp. 'Quart. Statement of Pal. Explor. Fund,' Oct. 1881, pp.317-319;
Conder's 'Handbook to the Bible,' pp. 355, 356, and for the description
of Jeremiah's Grotto, Bäedeker-Socin, u. s. p. 126. Of course, proof is
in the nature of things impossible; yet to me this seems the most sacred and
precious locality in Jerusalem.
Thither, then, did that melancholy procession wind, between
eight and nine o'clock on that Friday in Passover week. From the ancient Palace
of Herod it descended, and probably passed through the gate in the first wall,
and so into the busy quarter of Acra. As it proceeded, the numbers who followed
from the Temple, from the dense business-quarter through which it moved,
increased. Shops, bazaars, and markets were, indeed, closed on the holy
feast-day. But quite a crowd of people would come out to line the streets and
to follow; and, especially, women, leaving their festive preparations, raised
loud laments, not in spiritual recognition of Christ's claims, but in pity and
And who could have looked unmoved on such a spectacle, unless fanatical hatred
had burnt out of his bosom all that was human? Since the Paschal Supper Jesus
had not tasted either food or drink. After the deep emotion of that Feast, with
all of holiest institution which it included; after the anticipated betrayal of
Judas, and after the farewell to His disciples, He had passed into Gethsemane.
There for hours, alone - since His nearest disciples could not watch with Him
even one hour - the deep waters had rolled up to His soul. He had drunk of
them, immersed, almost perished in them. There had he agonised in mortal
conflict, till the great drops of blood forced themselves on His Brow. There
had He been delivered up, while they all had fled. To Annas, to Caiaphas, to
Pilate, to Herod, and again to Pilate; from indignity to indignity, from
torture to torture, had He been hurried all that livelong night, all that
morning. All throughout He had borne Himself with a Divine Majesty, which had
awakened alike the deeper feelings of Pilate and the infuriated hatred of the
Jews. But if His Divinity gave its true meaning to His Humanity, that Humanity
gave its true meaning to His voluntary Sacrifice. So, far, then, from seeking
to hide its manifestations, the Evangelists, not indeed needlessly but
unhesitatingly, put them forward.22
Unrefreshed by food or sleep, after the terrible events of that night and
morning, while His pallid Face bore the blood-marks from the crown of thorns,
His mangled Body was unable to bear the weight of the Cross. No wonder the pity
of the women of Jerusalem was stirred. But ours is not pity, it is worship at
the sight. For, underlying His Human Weakness was the Divine Strength which led
Him to this voluntary self-surrender and self-examination. It was the Divine
strength of His pity and love which issued in His Human weakness.
cannot conceive any sufficient ground, why Keim should deny the
historical character of this trait. Surely, on Keim's own principles,
the circumstance, that only St. Luke records it, would not warrant this
inference. On the other hand, it may be characterised as perhaps one of the
most natural incidents in the narrative.
can only account for it by the prejudices of party feeling, that one of such
fine and sympathetic tact as Keim should so strangely have missed this,
and imputed, especially to St. John, a desire of obscuring the element of
weakness and forsakenness (u. s. p. 401).
Up to that last Gate which led from the 'Suburb' towards the
place of execution did Jesus bear His Cross. Then, as we infer, His strength
gave way under it. A man was coming from the opposite direction, one from that
large colony of Jews which, as we know, had settled in Cyrene.23
He would be specially noticed; for, few would at that hour, on the festive day,
come 'out of the country,'24
although such was not contrary to the Law. So much has been made of this, that
it ought to be distinctly known that travelling, which was forbidden on
Sabbaths, was not prohibited on feast-days.25
Besides, the place whence he came - perhaps his home - might have been within
the ecclesiastical boundary of Jerusalem. At any rate, he seems to have been
well known, at least afterwards, in the Church - and his sons Alexander and
Rufus even better than he.26
Thus much only can we say with certainty; to identify them with persons of the
same name mentioned in other parts of the New Testament can only be matter of speculation.27
But we can scarcely repress the thought that Simon the Cyrenian had not before
that day been a disciple; had only learned to follow Christ, when, on that day,
as he came in by the Gate, the soldiery laid hold on him, and against his will
forced him to bear the Cross after Christ. Yet another indication of the need
of such help comes to us from St. Mark,28
who uses an expression29
which conveys, though not necessarily that the Saviour had to be borne, yet
that He had to be supported to Golgotha from the place where they met Simon.
vol. i. pp. 62, 63, 119.
not 'from the field.' The original, it is now generally admitted, does
not mean this, and, as Wieseler aptly remarks (Beitr. p. 267) a person
would scarcely return from labour in the field at nine o'clock in the morning
(St. Mark xv. 25).
is shown in Tosaph. to Chag. 17 b, and admitted by all Rabbinic writers.
(See Hoffmann, Abh. u.d. Pentat. Ges. p. 66.)
Mark xv. 21.
xiii. 1; Rom. xvi. 13.
Here, where, if the Saviour did not actually sink under His
burden, it yet required to be transferred to the Cyrenian, while Himself
henceforth needed bodily support, we place the next incident in this history.30
While the Cross was laid on the unwilling Simon, the women who had followed
with the populace closed around the Sufferer, raising their lamentations.31
At His Entrance into Jerusalem,32
Jesus had wept over the daughters of Jerusalem; as He left it for the last
time, they wept over Him. But far different were the reasons for His tears from
theirs of mere pity. And, if proof were required of His Divine strength, even
in the utmost depth of His Human weakness - how, conquered, He was Conqueror -
it would surely be found in the words in which He bade them turn their thoughts
of pity where pity would be called for, even to themselves and their children
in the near judgment upon Jerusalem. The time would come, when the Old
Testament curse of barrenness33
would be coveted as a blessing. To show the fulfilment of this prophetic lament
of Jesus, it is not necessary to recall the harrowing details recorded by Josephus,34
when a frenzied mother roasted her own child, and in the mockery of
desperateness reserved the half of the horrible meal for those murderers who
daily broke in upon her to rob her of what scanty food had been left her; nor
yet other of those incidents, too revolting for needless repetition, which the
historian of the last siege of Jerusalem chronicles. But how often, these many
centuries, must Israel's women have felt that terrible longing for
childlessness, and how often must the prayer of despair for the quick death of
falling mountains and burying hills rather than prolonged torture35
have risen to the lips of Israel's sufferers! And yet, even so, these words
were also prophetic of a still more terrible future!36
For, if Israel had put such flame to its 'green tree' how terribly would the
Divine judgment burn among the dry wood of an apostate and rebellious people, that
had so delivered up its Divine King, and pronounced sentence upon itself by
pronouncing it upon Him!
Luke xxiii. 27-31.
31. ekoptonto kai eqrhnoun auton. Gerhard
remarks: 'ut koptesqai sive
plangere est manuum (Bengel: pertinet ad gestus), ita qrhnein est oris et oculorum (Bengel: ad, fletum
et vocem flebilem).'
St. Luke also records.
vi. 3. 4.
And yet natural, and, in some respects, genuine, as were the
tears of 'the daughters of Jerusalem,' mere sympathy with Christ almost
involves guilt, since it implies a view of Him which is essentially the
opposite of that which His claims demand. These tears were the emblem of that
modern sentiment about the Christ which, in its effusiveness, offers insult
rather than homage, and implies rejection rather than acknowledgment of Him. We
shrink with horror from the assumption of a higher standpoint, implied in so
much of the modern so-called criticism about the Christ. But even beyond this,
all mere sentimentalism is here the outcome of unconsciousness of our real
condition. When a sense of sin has been awakened in us, we shall mourn, not for
what Christ has suffered, but for what He suffered for us. The effusiveness of
mere sentiment is impertinence or folly: impertinence, if He was the Son of
God; folly, if He was merely Man. And, even from quite another point of view,
there is here a lesson to learn. It is the peculiarity of Romanism ever to
present the Christ in His Human weakness. It is that of an extreme section on
the opposite side, to view Him only in His Divinity. Be it ours ever to keep
before us, and to worship as we remember it, that the Christ is the Saviour
It was nine of the clock when the melancholy procession reached
Golgotha, and the yet more melancholy preparations for the Crucifixion
commenced. Avowedly, the punishment was invented to make death as painful and
as lingering as the power of human endurance. First, the upright wood was
planted in the ground. It was not high, and probably the Feet of the Sufferer
were not above one or two feet from the ground. Thus could the communication
described in the Gospels take place between Him and others; thus, also, might
His Sacred Lips be moistened with the sponge attached to a short stalk of
hyssop. Next, the transverse wood (antenna) was placed on the ground,
and the Sufferer laid on it, when His Arms were extended, drawn up, and bound
to it. Then (this not in Egypt, but in Carthage and in Rome) a strong, sharp
nail was driven, first into the Right, then into the Left Hand (the clavi
trabales). Next, the Sufferer was drawn up by means of ropes, perhaps
transverse either bound or nailed to the upright, and a rest or support for the
Body (the cornu or sedile) fastened on it. Lastly, the Feet were
extended, and either one nail hammered into each, or a larger piece of iron
through the two. We have already expressed our belief that the indignity of
exposure was not offered at such a Jewish execution. And so might the crucified
hang for hours, even days, in the unutterable anguish of suffering, till
consciousness at last failed.
Nebe denies the use of ladders, and, in general, tries to prove by
numerous quotations that the whole Cross was first erected, and then the
Sufferer lifted up to it, and, only after that, the nails fastened into His
Arms and Feet. Strange though it may seem, the question cannot be absolutely
It was a merciful Jewish practice to give to those led to
execution a draught of strong wine mixed with myrrh so as to deaden
This charitable office was performed at the cost of, if not by, an association
of women in Jerusalem.39
That draught was offered to Jesus when He reached Golgatha.40
But having tasted it, and ascertained its character and object, He would not
drink it. It was like His former refusal of the pity of the 'daughters of
Jerusalem.' No man could take His Life from Him; He had power to lay it down,
and to take it up again. Nor would He here yield to the ordinary weakness of
our human nature; nor suffer and die as if it had been a necessity, not a
voluntary self-surrender. He would meet Death, even in his sternest and
fiercest mood, and conquer by submitting to the full. A lesson this also,
though one difficult, to the Christian sufferer.
Sem. ii. 9; Bemid. R. 10.
two alleged discrepancies, between St. Matthew and St. Mark, though, even if
they did exist, scarcely worth mention, may be thus explained: 1. If St.
Matthew wrote 'vinegar' (although the best MSS. read 'wine'), he, no doubt, so
translated literally the word Chomets (Cmew&x) which, though
literally, 'vinegar,' refers to an inferior kind of wine which was often mixed
(comp. Pes. 42 b). 2. If our Greek text of St. Matthew speaks of
'wormwood' (as in the LXX.) - not 'gall' - and St. Mark of myrrh, we must
remember, that both may have been regarded as stupefying, perhaps both used,
and that possibly the mistake may have arisen from the similarity of words and
their writing - Lebhonah, 'myrrh,' Laanah, 'wormwood' - when
hnwbl may have passed into hn(l - the wb into (.
And so was He nailed to His Cross, which was placed between,
probably somewhat higher than, those of the two malefactors crucified with Him.41
One thing only still remained: to affix to His Cross the so-called 'title' (titulus),
on which was inscribed the charge on which He had been condemned. As already
stated, it was customary to carry this board before the prisoner, and there is
no reason for supposing any exception in this respect. Indeed, it seems
implied in the circumstance, that the 'title' had evidently been drawn up under
the direction of Pilate. It was - as might have been expected, and yet most
- trilingual: in Latin, Greek, and Aramæan. We imagine, that it was written in
and that the words were those recorded by the Evangelists (excepting St. Luke,44
who seems to give a modification of the original, or Aramæan, text). The
inscription given by St. Matthew exactly corresponds with that which Eusebius45
records as the Latin titulus on the cross of one of the early martyrs.
We therefore conclude, that it represents the Latin words. Again, it seems only
natural, that the fullest, and to the Jews most offensive, description should
have been in Aramæan, which all could read. Very significantly this is given by
St. John. It follows, that the inscription given by St. Mark must represent
that in Greek. Although much less comprehensive, it had the same number of
words, and precisely the same number of letters, as that in Aramæan, given by
vol. vi. p. 336, recalls the execution of Savonarola between Fra Silvestro and
Fra Domenico, and the taunt of his enemies: 'Now, brother!'
Westcott beautifully remarks: These three languages gathered up the
result of the religious, the social, the intellectual preparation for Christ,
and in each witness was given to His office.
next page, note 1.
better reading there is, o basileuV twn
it would read Jeshu han-Notsri malka dihudaey (yric:w&ha w@#$@y" - or else
(w#y yrcnh - y)"dewhydi )k@afl:ma). Both have four words and, in all, twenty letters. The
Latin inscription (St. Matthew) would be, Hic est Jesus Rex Judæorum -
five words and twenty-two letters. It will be seen how each would fill a line
of about the same length. The notice of the three languages in St. Luke is
spurious. We retain the textus receptus of St. John xix. 19, as in any
case it seems most unlikely that Pilate would have placed the Latin in the
middle and not at the top. The Aramæan would stand last.
It seems probable, that the Sanhedrists had heard from some
one, who had watched the procession on its way to Golgotha, of the inscription
which Pilate had written on the 'titulus' - partly to avenge himself on, and
partly to deride, the Jews. It is not likely that they would have asked Pilate
to take it down after it had been affixed to the Cross; and it seems scarcely
credible, that they would have waited outside the Prætorium till the melancholy
procession commenced its march. We suppose that, after the condemnation of
Jesus, the Sanhedrists had gone from the Prætorium into the Temple, to take
part in its services. When informed of the offensive tablet, they hastened once
more to the Prætorium, to induce Pilate not to allow it to be put up. This
explains the inversion in the order of the account in the Gospel of St. John,47
or rather, its location in that narrative in immediate connection with the
notice, that the Sanhedrists were afraid the Jews who passed by might be
influenced by the inscription. We imagine, that the Sanhedrists had originally
no intention of doing anything so un-Jewish as not only to gaze at the
sufferings of the Crucified, but to even deride Him in His Agony - that, in
fact, they had not intended going to Golgotha at all. But when they found that
Pilate would not yield to their remonstrances, some of them hastened to the
place of Crucifixion, and, mingling with the crowd, sought to incite their
jeers, so as to prevent any deeper impression48
which the significant words of the inscription might have produced.49
John xix. 21, 22.
here the account of St. Matt. (xxvii. 39-43) and of the other Synoptists.
the notice in St. John xix. 21, 22, would be parenthetic, chronologically
belonging to an earlier part, and inserted here for the sake of historical
Before nailing Him to the Cross, the soldiers parted among them
the poor worldly inheritance of His raiment.50
On this point there are slight seeming differences51
between the notices of the Synoptists and the more detailed account of the
Fourth Gospel. Such differences, if real, would afford only fresh evidence of
the general trustworthiness of the narrative. For, we bear in mind that, of all
the disciples, only St. John witnessed the last scenes, and that therefore the
other accounts of it circulating in the early Church must have been derived, so
to speak, from second sources. This explains, why perhaps the largest number of
seeming discrepancies in the Gospels occurs in the narrative of the closing
hours in the Life of Christ, and how, contrary to what otherwise we might have
expected, the most detailed as well as precise account of them comes to us from
St. John. In the present instance these slight seeming differences may be
explained in the following manner. There was, as St. John states, first a
division into four parts - one to each of the soldiers - of such garments of
the Lord as were of nearly the same value. The head-gear, the outer cloak-like
garment, the girdle, and the sandals, would differ little in cost. But the
question, which of them was to belong to each of the soldiers, would naturally
be decided, as the Synoptists inform us, by lot.
is generally stated, that this was the common Roman custom. But of this there
is no evidence, and in later times it was expressly forbidden (Ulpianus,
Digest. xiviii. 20, 6). I cannot see how Keim, and, after him, Nebe,
should infer from this as certain, that the law had formerly been the opposite.
I confess, to my thinking, they seem to have been a source of anxiety and
distress to St. Augustine, that he might find their true conciliation.
But, besides these four articles of dress, there was the
seamless woven inner garment,52
by far the most valuable of all, and for which, as it could not be partitioned
without being destroyed, they would specially cast lots53
(as St. John reports). Nothing in this world can be accidental, since God is
not far from any of us. But in the History of the Christ the Divine purpose,
which forms the subject of all prophecy, must have been constantly realised;
nay, this must have forced itself on the mind of the observer, and the more
irresistibly when, as in the present instance, the outward circumstances were
in such sharp contrast to the higher reality. To St. John, the loving and loved
disciple, greater contrast could scarcely exist than between this rough
partition by lot among the soldiery, and the character and claims of Him Whose
garments they were thus apportioning, as if He had been a helpless Victim in
their hands. Only one explanation could here suggest itself: that there was a
special Divine meaning in the permission of such an event - that it was in
fulfilment of ancient prophecy. As he gazed on the terrible scene, the words of
which portrayed the desertion, the sufferings, and the contempt even unto death
of the Servant of the Lord, stood out in the red light of the Sun setting in
Blood. They flashed upon his mind - for the first time he understood them;56
and the flames which played around the Sufferer were seen to be the sacrificial
fire that consumed the Sacrifice which He offered. That this quotation is made
in the Fourth Gospel alone, proves that its writer was an eyewitness; that it
was made in the Fourth Gospel at all, that he was a Jew, deeply imbued with
Jewish modes of religious thinking. And the evidence of both is the stronger,
as we recall the comparative rareness, and the peculiarly Judaic character of
the Old Testament quotations in the Fourth Gospel.57
is deeply significant that the dress of the priests was not sewed but woven
(Zehbach. 88 a), and especially so that of the High-Priest (Yoma 72 b).
According to tradition, during the seven days of consecration, Moses ministered
in a seamless white dress, woven throughout. (Taan. 11 b.)
is impossible to determine in what manner this was done. The various modes of
casting the lot are described by Adam, Roman Antiq. pp. 397-399.
Possibly, however, it was much more simple and rough than any of these.
calls Ps. xxii. 'the programme of the Passion of Christ.' We may accept the
description, though not in his sense.
Scripture quotation in the t. r. of St. Matthew, and, in all probability, that
also in St. Mark, is spurious.
there are fifteen such quotations in the Fourth Gospel. Of these at most only
two (St. John vi. 31 and vii. 38) could be described as Alexandrian in
character, the rest are truly Judaic.
It was when they thus nailed Him to the Cross, and parted His
raiment, that He spake the first of the so-called 'Seven Words:' 'Father,
forgive them, for they know not what they do.'58
Even the reference in this prayer to 'what they do' (not in the past, nor
future) points to the soldiers as the primary, though certainly not the sole
object of the Saviour's prayer.5960
But higher thoughts also come to us. In the moment of the deepest abasement of
Christ's Human Nature, the Divine bursts forth most brightly. It is, as if the
Saviour would discard all that is merely human in His Sufferings, just as
before He had discarded the Cup of stupefying wine. These soldiers were but the
unconscious instruments: the form was nothing; the contest was between the
Kingdom of God and that of darkness, between the Christ and Satan, and these
sufferings were but the necessary path of obedience, and to victory and glory.
When He is most human (in the moment of His being nailed to the Cross), then is
He most Divine, in the utter discarding of the human elements of human
instrumentality and of human suffering. Then also in the utter
self-forgetfulness of the God-Man - which is one of the aspects of the
Incarnation - does He only remember Divine mercy, and pray for them who crucify
Him; and thus also does the Conquered truly conquer His conquerors by asking
for them what their deed had forfeited. And lastly, in this, that alike the
first and the last of His Utterances begin with 'Father,' does He show by the
unbrokenness of His faith and fellowship the real spiritual victory which He
has won. And He has won it, not only for the martyrs, who have learned from Him
to pray as He did, but for everyone who, in the midst of all that seems most
opposed to it, can rise, beyond mere forgetfulness of what is around, to
realising faith and fellowship with God as 'the Father,' - who through the dark
curtain of cloud can discern the bright sky, and can feel the unshaken
confidence, if not the unbroken joy, of absolute trust.
genuineness of these words has been called in question. But alike external and
internal evidence demands their retention.
Acts iii. 17, 1 Cor. ii. 8.
would be presumptuous to seek to determine how far that prayer extended.
Generally - I agree with Nebe - to all (Gentiles and Jews) who, in their
participation in the sufferings inflicted on Jesus, acted in ignorance.
This was His first Utterance on the Cross - as regarded them;
as regarded Himself; and as regarded God. So, surely, suffered not Man. Has
this prayer of Christ been answered? We dare not doubt it; nay, we perceive it
in some measure in those drops of blessing which have fallen upon heathen men,
and have left to Israel also, even in its ignorance, a remnant according to the
election of grace.61
reference to this St. Augustine writes: 'Sanguinem Christi, quem
sævientes fuderunt, credentes biberunt.' The question why Christ did not
Himself forgive, but appeal for it to the Father, is best answered by the
consideration, that it was really a crimen læsæ majestatis against the Father,
and that the vindication of the Son lay with God the Father.
And now began the real agonies of the Cross - physical, mental,
and spiritual. It was the weary, unrelieved waiting, as thickening darkness
gradually gathered around. Before sitting down to their melancholy watch over
the soldiers would refresh themselves, after their exertion in nailing Jesus to
the Cross, lifting it up, and fixing it, by draughts of the cheap wine of the
country. As they quaffed it, they drank to Him in their coarse brutality, and
mockingly came to Him, asking Him to pledge them in response. Their jests were,
indeed, chiefly directed not against Jesus personally, but in His
Representative capacity, and so against the hated, despised Jews, whose King
they now derisively challenged to save Himself.63
Yet even so, it seems to us of deepest significance, that He was so treated and
derided in His Representative Capacity and as the King of the Jews. It is the
undesigned testimony of history, alike as regarded the character of Jesus and
the future of Israel. But what from almost any point of view we find so difficult
to understand is, the unutterable abasement of the Leaders of Israel - their
moral suicide as regarded Israel's hope and spiritual existence. There, on that
Cross, hung He, Who at least embodied that grand hope of the nation; Who, even
on their own showing, suffered to the extreme for that idea, and yet renounced
it not, but clung fast to it in unshaken confidence; One, to Whose Life or even
Teaching no objection could be offered, save that of this grand idea. And yet,
when it came to them in the ribald mockery of this heathen soldiery, it evoked
no other or higher thoughts in them; and they had the indescribable baseness of
joining in the jeer at Israel's great hope, and of leading the popular chorus
For, we cannot doubt, that - perhaps also by way of turning
aside the point of the jeer from Israel - they took it up, and tried to direct
it against Jesus; and that they led the ignorant mob in the piteous attempts at
derision. And did none of those who so reviled Him in all the chief aspects of
His Work feel, that, as Judas had sold the Master for nought and committed
suicide, so they were doing in regard to their Messianic hope? For, their jeers
cast contempt on the four great facts in the Life and Work of Jesus, which were
also the underlying ideas of the Messianic Kingdom: the new relationship to
Israel's religion and the Temple ('Thou that destroyest the Temple, and
buildest it in three days'); the new relationship to the Father through the
Messiah, the Son of God ('if Thou be the Son of God'); the new all-sufficient
help brought to body and soul in salvation ('He saved others'); and, finally,
the new relationship to Israel in the fulfilment and perfecting of its Mission
through its King ('if He be the King of Israel'). On all these, the taunting
challenge of the Sanhedrists, to come down from the Cross, and save Himself, if
he would claim the allegiance of their faith, cast what St. Matthew and St.
Mark characterise as the 'blaspheming'64
of doubt. We compare with theirs the account of St. Luke and St. John. That of
St. Luke reads like the report of what had passed, given by one who throughout
had been quite close by, perhaps taken part in the Crucifixion65
- one might almost venture to suggest, that it had been furnished by the
Centurion.66 The narrative
of St. John reads markedly like that of an eyewitness, and he a Judæan.67
And as we compare both the general Judæan cast and Old Testament quotations in
this with the other parts of the Fourth Gospel, we feel as if (as so often),
under the influence of the strongest emotions, the later development and
peculiar thinking of so many years afterwards had for the time been effaced
from the mind of St. John, or rather given place to the Jewish modes of
conception and speech, familiar to him in earlier days. Lastly, the account of
St. Matthew seems as if written from the priestly point of view, as if it had
been furnished by one of the Priests or Sanhedrist party, present at the time.
two Evangelists designate by this very word the bearing of the passersby,
rendered in the A.V. 'reviled' and 'railed.'
peculiarities in it are (besides the titulus): what passed on the
procession to Golgotha (St. Luke xxiii. 27-31); the prayer, when affixed to the
Cross (ver. 34 a); the bearing of the soldiers (vv. 36, 37); the
conversion of the penitent thief; and the last words on the Cross (ver. 46).
is no evidence, that the Centurion was still present when the soldier
'came' to pierce the Saviour's side (St. John xix. 31-37).
from the peculiar details and O.T. quotations.
Yet other inferences come to us. First, there is a remarkable
relationship between what St. Luke quotes as spoken by the soldiers: 'If Thou
art the King of the Jews, save Thyself,' and the report of the words in St.
Matthew:68 'He saved
others - Himself He cannot save. He69
is the King of Israel! Let Him now come down from the Cross, and we will
believe on Him!' These are the words of the Sanhedrists, and they seem to
respond to those of the soldiers, as reported by St. Luke, and to carry them
further. The 'if' of the soldiers: 'If Thou art the King of the Jews,' now
becomes a direct blasphemous challenge. As we think of it, they seem to
re-echo, and now with the laughter of hellish triumph, the former Jewish
challenge for an outward, infallible sign to demonstrate His Messiahship. But
they also take up, and re-echo, what Satan had set before Jesus in the
Temptation of the wilderness. At the beginning of His Work, the Tempter had
suggested that the Christ should achieve absolute victory by an act of
presumptuous self-assertion, utterly opposed to the spirit of the Christ, but
which Satan represented as an act of trust in God, such as He would assuredly
own. And now, at the close of His Messianic Work, the Tempter suggested, in the
challenge of the Sanhedrists, that Jesus had suffered absolute defeat, and that
God had publicly disowned the trust which the Christ had put in Him. 'He
trusteth in God: let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him.'70
Here, as in the Temptation of the Wilderness, the words misapplied were those
of Holy Scripture - in the present instance those of Ps. xxii. 8. And the
quotation, as made by the Sanhedrists, is the more remarkable, that, contrary
to what is generally asserted by writers, this Psalm71was Messianically applied by the ancient Synagogue.72
More especially was this verse,73
which precedes the mocking quotation of the Sanhedrists, expressly applied to
the sufferings and the derision which Messiah was to undergo from His enemies:
'All they that see Me laugh Me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the
Matt. xxvii. 42.
word 'if' (if He) in our A.V. is spurious.
is the literal rendering. The 'will have Him' = has pleasure in Him, like the
German: 'Wenn Er Ihn will.'
on Is. lx. vol. ii. p. 56 d, lines 12 &c, from bottom.
actually commits himself to the statement, that Ps. xxii. was not Messianically
applied by the Jews. Other writers
follow his lead. The objection, that the Sanhedrists could not have quoted this
verse, as it would have branded them as the wicked persons described in the
Psalm, has no force when we remember the loose way in which the Jews were in
the habit of quoting the Old Testament.
The derision of the Sanhedrists under the Cross was, as
previously stated, not entirely spontaneous, but had a special motive. The
place of Crucifixion was close to the great road which led from the North to
Jerusalem. On that Feast-day, when, as there was no law to limit, as on the
weekly day of rest, locomotion to a 'Sabbath day's journey,' many would pass in
and out of the City, and the crowd would naturally be arrested by the spectacle
of the three Crosses. Equally naturally would they have been impressed by the titulus
over the Cross of Christ. The words, describing the Sufferer as 'the King of
the Jews,' might, when taken in connection with what was known of Jesus, have
raised most dangerous questions. And this the presence of the Sanhedrists was
intended to prevent, by turning the popular mind in a totally different
direction. It was just such a taunt and argumentation as would appeal to that
coarse realism of the common people, which is too often misnamed 'common
sense.' St. Luke significantly ascribes the derision of Jesus only to the Rulers,76
and we repeat, that that of the passers by, recorded by St. Matthew and St.
Mark, was excited by them. Thus here also the main guilt rested on the leaders
of the people.77
words, 'with them,' in St. Luke xxiii. 35, are spurious.
Mark introduces the mocking speeches (xv. 29) by the particle oua ('Ah') which occurs only here in the
N.T. It is evidently the Latin 'Vah,' an exclamation of ironical
admiration. (See Bengel and Nebe, ad loc.) The words literally
were: 'Ha! the downbreaker of the sanctuary and upbuilding it in three days,
save Thyself.' Except the introductory particle and the order of the words, the
words are the same in St. Matthew. The o
kataluwn is used in the sense of a substantive (comp. Winer,
Gram. p. 122, and especially p. 316).
One other trait comes to us from St. Luke, confirming our
impression that his account was derived from one who had stood quite close to
the Cross, probably taken official part in the Crucifixion. St. Matthew and St.
Mark merely remark in general, that the derision of the Sanhedrists and people
was joined in by the thieves on the Cross.78
A trait this, which we feel to be not only psychologically true, but the more
likely of occurrence, that any sympathy or possible alleviation of their
sufferings might best be secured by joining in the scorn of the leaders, and
concentrating popular indignation upon Jesus. But St. Luke also records a vital
difference between the two 'robbers' on the Cross.79
The impenitent thief takes up the jeer of the Sanhedrists: 'Art Thou not the
Thyself and us!' The words are the more significant, alike in their bearing on
the majestic calm and pitying love of the Saviour on the Cross, and on the
utterance of the 'penitent thief,' that - strange as it may sound - it seems to
have been a terrible phenomenon, noted by historians,81
that those on the cross were wont to utter insults and imprecations on the
onlookers, goaded nature perhaps seeking relief in such outbursts. Not so when
the heart was touched in true repentance.
language of St. Matthew and St. Mark is quite general, and refers to 'the
thieves;' that of St. Luke is precise and detailed. But I cannot agree with those
who, for the sake of 'harmony,' represent the penitent thief as joining in his
comrade's blasphemy before turning to Christ. I do not deny, that such a sudden
change might have taken place; but there is no evidence for it in the text, and
the supposition of the penitent thief first blaspheming gives rise to many
incongruities, and does not seem to fit into the text.
names the impenitent thief Gestas, which Keim identifies with steganoV, silenced, hardened -
although the derivation seems to me forced. The penitent thief is called Dysmas,
which I would propose to derive from dusmh
in the sense of 'the setting,' viz, of the sun: he who turns to the setting
sun. Sepp very fancifully regards the penitent thief as a Greek
(Japhetisch), the impenitent as a negro.
according to the right reading.
the quotations in Nebe, ii. 258.
If a more close study of the words of the 'penitent thief' may
seem to diminish the fulness of meaning which the traditional view attaches to
them, they gain all the more as we perceive their historic reality. His first
words were of reproof to his comrade. In that terrible hour, amidst the
tortures of a slow death, did not the fear of God creep over him - at least so
far as to prevent his joining in the vile jeers of those who insulted the dying
agonies of the Sufferer?82
And this all the more, in the peculiar circumstances. They were all three
sufferers; but they two justly, while He Whom he insulted had done nothing
amiss. From this basis of fact, the penitent rapidly rose to the height of
faith. This is not uncommon, when a mind is learning the lessons of truth in
the school of grace. Only, it stands out here the more sharply, because of the
dark background against which it is traced in such broad and brightly shining
outlines. The hour of the deepest abasement of the Christ was, as all the
moments of His greatest Humiliation, to be marked by a manifestation of His
Glory and Divine Character - as it were, by God's testimony to Him in history,
if not by the Voice of God from heaven. And, as regarded the 'penitent'
himself, we notice the progression in his soul. No one could have been ignorant
- least of all those who were led forth with Him to crucifixion, that Jesus did
not suffer for any crime, nor for any political movement, but because He
professed to embody the great hope of Israel, and was rejected by its leaders.
And, if any had been ignorant, the 'title' over the Cross and the bitter enmity
of the Sanhedrists, which followed Him with jeers and jibes, where even
ordinary humanity, and still more Jewish feeling, would have enjoined silence,
if not pity, must have shown what had been the motives of 'the condemnation' of
Jesus. But, once the mind was opened to perceive all these facts, the progress
would be rapid. In hours of extremity a man may deceive himself and fatally
mistake fear for the fear of God, and the remembrance of certain external
knowledge for spiritual experience. But, if a man really learns in such
seasons, the teaching of years may be compressed into moments, and the dying
thief on the Cross might outdistance the knowledge gained by Apostles in their
years of following Christ.
not thou even fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?' Condemnation
here means that to which one is condemned: the sufferings of the cross; and the
expostulation is: Suffering as thou art like Him and me, canst thou join in the
jeers of the crowd? Dost thou not even fear God - should not fear of Him now
creep over thy soul, or at least prevent thee from insulting the dying
Sufferer? And this all the more, since the circumstances are as immediately
One thing stood out before the mind of the 'penitent thief,'
who in that hour did fear God. Jesus had done nothing amiss. And this
surrounded with a halo of moral glory the inscription on the Cross, long before
its words acquired a new meaning. But how did this Innocent One bear Himself in
suffering? Right royally - not in an earthly sense, but in that in which alone
He claimed the Kingdom. He had so spoken to the women who had lamented Him, as
His faint form could no longer bear the burden of the Cross; and He had so
refused the draught that would have deadened consciousness and sensibility.
Then, as they three were stretched on the transverse beam, and, in the first
and sharpest agony of pain, the nails were driven with cruel stroke of hammer
through the quivering flesh, and, in the nameless agony that followed the first
moments of the Crucifixion, only a prayer for those who in ignorance, were the
instruments of His torture, had passed His lips. And yet He was innocent, Who
so cruelly suffered. All that followed must have only deepened the impression.
With what calm of endurance and majesty of silence He had borne the insult and
jeers of those who, even to the spiritually unenlightened eye, must have seemed
so infinitely far beneath Him! This man did feel the 'fear' of God, who now
learned the new lesson in which the fear of God was truly the beginning of
wisdom. And, once he gave place to the moral element, when under the fear of
God he reproved his comrade, this new moral decision became to him, as so
often, the beginning of spiritual life. Rapidly he now passed into the light,
and onwards and upwards: 'Lord, remember me, when Thou comest in Thy Kingdom!'
The familiar words of our Authorised Version - 'When Thou
comest into Thy Kingdom' - convey the idea of what we might call a more
spiritual meaning of the petition. But we can scarcely believe, that at that
moment it implied either that Christ was then going into His Kingdom, or that
the 'penitent thief' looked to Christ for admission into the Heavenly Kingdom.
The words are true to the Jewish point of vision of the man. He recognised and
owned Jesus as the Messiah, and he did so, by a wonderful forthgoing of faith,
even in the utmost Humiliation of Christ. And this immediately passed beyond
the Jewish standpoint, for he expected Jesus soon to come back in His Kingly
might and power, when he asked to be remembered by Him in mercy. And here we
have again to bear in mind that, during the Life of Christ upon earth, and,
indeed, before the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, men always first learned to
believe in the Person of the Christ, and then to know His teaching and His
Mission in the forgiveness of sins. It was so in this case also. If the
'penitent thief' had learned to know the Christ, and to ask for gracious
recognition in His coming Kingdom, the answering assurance of the Lord conveyed
not only the comfort that his prayer was answered, but the teaching of
spiritual things which he knew not yet, and so much needed to know. The
'penitent' had spoken of the future, Christ spoke of 'to-day'; the penitent had
prayed about that Messianic Kingdom which was to come, Christ assured him in
regard to the state of the disembodied spirits, and conveyed to him the promise
that he would be there in the abode of the blessed - 'Paradise' - and that
through means of Himself as the Messiah: 'Amen, I say unto thee - To-day with
Me shalt thou be in the Paradise.' Thus did Christ give him that spiritual
knowledge which he did not yet possess - the teaching concerning the 'to-day,'
the need of gracious admission into Paradise, and that with and through Himself
- in other words, concerning the forgiveness of sins and the opening of the
Kingdom of Heaven to all believers. This, as the first and foundation-creed of
the soul, was the first and foundation-fact concerning the Messiah.
This was the Second Utterance from the Cross. The first had
been of utter self-forgetfullness; the second of deepest, wisest, most gracious
spiritual teaching. And, had He spoken none other than these, He would have
been proved to be the Son of God.83
to understand it, we ought to realise what would be the Jewish ideas of the
'penitent thief,' and what his understanding of the words of Christ. Broadly,
one would say, that as a Jew he would expect that his 'death would be expiation
of his sins.' Thoughts of need of forgiveness through the Messiah would not
therefore come to him. But the words of Christ must have supplied all this.
Again when Christ spoke of 'Paradise,' His hearer would naturally understand
that part of Hades in which the spirits of the righteous dwelt till the Resurrection. On both these points there are so many passages in Rabbinic
writings that it is needless to quote (see for ex. Westein, ad loc., and
our remarks on the Parable of Lazarus and Dives). Indeed, the prayer: let my
death be the expiation of my sins, is still in the Jewish office for the dying,
and the underlying dogma is firmly rooted in Rabbinic belief. The words of our
Lord, so far from encouraging this belief, would teach him that admission to
Paradise was to be granted by Christ. It is scarcely necessary to add, that
Christ's words in no way encouraged the realistic conceptions which Judaism
attached to Paradise (skrp). In Biblical Hebrew the word is used for a
choice garden: in Eccl. ii. 5; Cant. iv. 13; Nehem. ii. 8. But in the LXX. and
the Apocr. the word is already used in our sense of Paradise. Lastly, nothing
which our Lord had said to the 'penitent thief' about being 'to-day' with Him
in Paradise, is in any way inconsistent with, rather confirms, the doctrine of
the Descent into Hades.
Nothing more would require to be said to the 'penitent' on the
Cross. The events which followed, and the words which Jesus would still speak,
would teach him more fully than could otherwise have been done. Some hours -
probably two - had passed since Jesus had been nailed to the Cross. We wonder
how it came that St. John, who tells us some of the incidents with such
exceeding particularity, and relates all with the vivid realisation of a most
deeply interested eyewitness, should have been silent as to others - especially
as to those hours of derision, as well as to the conversion of the penitent
thief. His silence seems to us to have been due to absence from the scene. We
part company with him after his detailed account of the last scene before
Pilate.84 The final
sentence pronounced, we suppose him to have hurried into the City, and to have
acquainted such of the disciples as he might find - but especially those
faithful women and the Virgin-Mother - with the terrible scenes that had passed
since the previous evening. Thence he returned to Golgotha, just in time to
witness the Crucifixion, which he again describes with peculiar fulness of
details.85 When the
Saviour was nailed to the Cross, St. John seems once more to have returned to
the City - this time, to bring back with him those-women, in company of whom we
now find him standing close to the Cross. A more delicate, tender, loving
service could not have been rendered than this. Alone, of all the disciples, he
is there - not afraid to be near Christ, in the Palace of the High-Priest,
before Pilate, and now under the Cross. And alone he renders to Christ this
tender service of bringing the women and Mary to the Cross, and to them the
protection of his guidance and company. He loved Jesus best; and it was fitting
that to his manliness and affection should be entrusted the unspeakable
privilege of Christ's dangerous inheritance.86
John xix. 2-16.
first impression left is, of course, that the 'brothers' of Jesus were not yet,
at least in the full sense, believers. But this does not by any means
necessarily follow, since both the presence of John under the Cross, and even
his outward circumstances, might point him out as the most fit custodian of the
Virgin-Mother. At the same time it seems the more likely supposition, that the
brothers of Jesus were converted by the appearance to James of the Risen One (1
Cor. xv. 7).
leaves the impression that with the beloved disciple these four women were
standing close to the Cross: the Mother of Jesus, the Sister of His Mother,
Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala.88
A comparison with what is related by St. Matthew89
and St. Mark90
supplies further important particulars. We read there of only three women, the
name of the Mother of our Lord being omitted. But then it must be remembered
that this refers to a later period in the history of the Crucifixion. It seems
as if John had fulfilled to the letter the Lord's command: 'Behold thy mother,'
and literally 'from that very hour' taken her to his own home. If we are right
in this supposition, then, in the absence of St. John - who led away the
Virgin-Mother from that scene of horror - the other three women would withdraw
to a distance, where we find them at the end, not 'by the Cross,' as in St. John
xix. 25, but 'beholding from afar,' and now joined by others also, who had
loved and followed Christ.
John xix. 25-27.
view is now generally adopted.
Matt. xxvii. 55.
Mark xv. 40, 41.
We further notice that, the name of the Virgin-Mother being
omitted, the other three are the same as mentioned by St. John; only, Mary of
Clopas is now described as 'the mother of James and Jose,'91
and Christ's Mother's Sister' as 'Solome'92
and 'the mother of Zebedee's children.'93
Thus Salome, the wife of Zebedee and St. John's mother, was the sister of the
Virgin, and the beloved disciple the cousin (on the mother's side) of Jesus,
and the nephew of the Virgin. This also helps to explain why the care of the
Mother had been entrusted to him. Nor was Mary the wife of Clopas unconnected
with Jesus. What we have every reason to regard as a trustworthy account94
describes Clopas as the brother of Joseph, the husband of the Virgin. Thus, not
only Salome as the sister of the Virgin, but Mary also as the wife of Clopas,
would, in a certain sense, have been His aunt, and her sons His cousins. And so
we notice among the twelve Apostles five cousins of the Lord: the two sons of
Salome and Zebedee, and the three sons of Alphæus or Clopas95
and Mary: James, Judas surnamed Lebbæus and Thaddæus, and Simon surnamed
Zelotes or Cananæan.96
is, of course, the difficulty that Judas (Lebbæus) and Simon Zelotes are not
here mentioned as her sons. But they may have been her stepheons, or there may
have other reasons for the omission. 'Judas of James' could scarcely have been
the son of James, and Simon is expressly mentioned by Hegesippus as the
son of Clopas.
in Euseb. H.E. iii. 11 and iv. 22.
and Clopas are the same name. The first occurs in the Babylon Talmud as Ilphai,
or Ilpha ()ply)), as in R. haSh. 17 b, and often; the other in
the Jerusalem Talmud as Chilphai (yyplyx), as for ex. in Jer. B. Kama
regard the Simon Zelotes of the list of Apostles as the Simon son of Clopas, or
Alphæus, of Hegesippus - first, because of his position in the
lists of the Apostles along with the two other sons of Alphæus; secondly,
because, as there were only two prominent Simons in the N.T. (the brother of
the Lord, and Zelotes), and Hegesippus mentions him as the son of
Clopas, it follows that the Simon son of Clopas was Simon Zelotes. Levi Matthew
was, indeed, also a son of Alphæus, but we regard this as another Clopas than
the husband of Mary.
We can now in some measure realise events. When St. John had
seen the Saviour nailed to the Cross, he had gone to the City and brought with
him for a last mournful farewell the Virgin, accompanied by those who, as most
nearly connected with her, would naturally be with her: her own sister Salome,
the sister-in-law of Joseph and wife (or more probably widow) of Clopas, and
her who of all others had experienced most of His blessed power to save - Mary
of Magdala. Once more we reverently mark His Divine calm of utter
self-forgetfulness and His human thoughtfulness for others. As they stood under
the Cross, He committed His Mother to the disciple whom He loved, and
established a new human relationship between him and her who was nearest to
calmly, earnestly, and immediately did that disciple undertake the sacred
charge, and bring her - whose soul the sword had pierced - away from the scene
of unutterable woe to the shelter of his home.98
And this temporary absence of John from the Cross may account for the want of
all detail in his narrative till quite the closing scene.99
though the interruption be, we cannot help noticing that the introduction of
such a scene seems inconsistent with the whole theory of an Ephesian authorship
of the Fourth Gospel. On the other hand, it displays evidence of the true human
interest of an actor in the scene.
is really known of the later history of the Blessed Virgin.
John xix. 28.
Now at last all that concerned the earthward aspect of His
Mission - so far as it had to be done on the Cross - was ended. He had prayed
for those who had nailed Him to it, in ignorance of what they did; He had given
the comfort of assurance to the penitent, who had owned His Glory in His
Humiliation; and He had made the last provision of love in regard to those
nearest to Him. So to speak, the relations of His Humanity - that which touched
His Human Nature in any direction - had been fully met. He had done with the
Human aspect of His Work and with earth. And, appropriately, Nature seemed now
to take sad farewell of Him, and mourned its departing Lord, Who, by His
Personal connection with it, had once more lifted it from the abasement of the
Fall into the region of the Divine, making it the dwelling-place, the vehicle
for the manifestation, and the obedient messenger of the Divine.
For three hours had the Saviour hung on the Cross. It was
midday. And now the Sun was craped in darkness from the sixth to the ninth
hour. No purpose can be served by attempting to trace the source of this
darkness. It could not have been an eclipse, since it was the time of full
moon; nor can we place reliance on the later reports on this subject of
It seems only in accordance with the Evangelic narrative to regard the
occurrence of the event as supernatural, while the event itself might have been
brought about by natural causes; and among these we must call special attention
to the earthquake in which this darkness terminated.101
For, it is a well-known phenomenon that such darkness not unfrequently precedes
earthquakes. On the other hand, it must be freely admitted, that the language
of the Evangelists seems to imply that this darkness extended, not only over
the land of Israel, but over the inhabited earth. The expression must, of
course, not be pressed to its full literality, but explained as meaning that it
extended far beyond Judæa and to other lands. No reasonable objection can be
raised from the circumstance, that neither the earthquake nor the preceding
darkness are mentioned by any profane writer whose works have been preserved,
since it would surely not be maintained that an historical record must have
been preserved of every earthquake that occurred, and of every darkness that
may have preceded it.102
But the most unfair argument is that, which tries to establish the unhistorical
character of this narrative by an appeal to what are described as Jewish
sayings expressive of similar expectancy.103
It is quite true that in old Testament prophecy - whether figuratively or
really - the darkening, though not only of the sun, but also of the moon and
stars, is sometimes connected, not with the Coming of Messiah, still less
with His Death, but with the final Judgement.104
But Jewish tradition never speaks of such an event in connection with Messiah,
or even with the Messianic judgments, and the quotations from Rabbinic writings
made by negative critics must be characterised as not only inapplicable but
do not think the testimony of Phlegon, as quoted by Eusebius, is
available (see the discussion in Wieseler's Synopse, p. 387, note 1).
Still, if the astronomical calculations of Ideler and Wurm are
correct, 'the eclipse' recorded by Phlegon [whether 'eclipse' in the scientific
sense, or 'darkness,'] would have taken place in the very year of our Lord's
death, A.D. 29, but, as they reckon, on November 24. I do not posses the
special knowledge requisite to verify these calculations; but that it is
described by Phlegon as an 'eclipse' - which this could not have been -
does not necessarily invalidate the argument, since he might have used the term
inaccurately. It is in this sense that St. Luke (xxiii. 45) uses the verb -
that is, if we adopt the amended reading. What Nebe writes on this
subject (vol. ii. p. 301), and the illustrations of the popular use of the word
from Pliny and Plutarch, deserve the most serious consideration.
But, I repeat, I cannot attach weight in this argument to such testimonies, nor
yet to the sayings of Origen, Tertullian, &c., nor to the
Acta Pilati (the ecclesiastical testimonies are discussed by Nebe, u. s.
Matt. xxvii. 51.
are frequent notices in classical writers of eclipses preceding disastrous
events or the death of great men, such as of Cæsar (Nebe, u. s. p. 300).
But these were, if correctly related, eclipses in the true sense, and, as such,
natural events, having in no way a supernatural bearing, and hence in no sense
analogous to this 'darkness' at the Crucifixion.
Strauss (after Wetstein) and even Keim. Painful as
controversy is in connection with the last hours of Jesus, I would not have
shrunk from contesting the positions of Keim, if I had not felt that
every unprejudiced person must see, that most of them are mere assertions,
without an attempt at anything like historical evidence.
(ii. p. 556), and more fully Keim (iii. p. 438, Note 3), quote Joel ii.
10, 31; Amos viii. 9; Is. xiii. 10; 1. 3; Job ix. 7; Jer. xv. 9. Of these
passages some have no bearing, however remote, on the subject, while the others
refer not to the Messiah but to the final judgement.
be quite fair, I will refer to all the passages quoted in connection
with the darkening of the sun as a token of mourning. The first (quoted by Wetstein)
is from the Midrash on Lament. iii. 28 (ed. Warsh. p. 72 a). But the
passage, evidently a highly figurative one, refers to the destruction of
Jerusalem and the dispersion of Israel, and, besides the darkening of the sun,
moon, and stars (not the sun only), refers to a realistic fulfilment of Nah. i.
3 and Lament. iii. 28 in God's walking in dust and keeping silence. The second
quotation of Wetstein, that when a great Rabbi dies it is as portentous
as if the sun went down at midday - has manifestly no bearing whatever on the
matter in hand (though Strauss adduces it). The last and only quotation
really worth mention is from Sukk. 29 a. In a somewhat lengthened
statement there, the meaning of an obscuration of the sun or moon is discussed.
I have here to remark (1) that these phenomena are regarded as 'signs' in the
sense of betokening coming judgments, such as war, famine, &c., and that
these are supposed to affect various nations according as the eclipse is
towards the rising or setting of the sun. The passage therefore can have
no possible connection with such a phenomenon as the death of Messiah. (2) This
is further confirmed by the enumeration of certain sins for which heavenly
luminaries are eclipsed. Some are not fit for mention, while others are such as
false witness-bearing, the needless cutting down of fruit-trees, &c. (3)
But the unfairness, as well as the inaptitude, of the quotation appears from
this, that only the beginning of the passage is quoted (Strauss and Keim):
'At a time when the sun is obscured, it is an evil sign to all the world,'
while what follows is omitted: 'When the sun is obscured, it is an evil sign to
the nations of the world; when the moon is obscured, it is an evil sign to Israel,
because Israel reckons according to the moon, the nations of the world
according to the sun.' And yet Wünsche (Erlauter. pp. 355, 356) quotes
both that which precedes and that which follows this passage, but leaves out
this passage itself. (Comp. Mechilta, p. 3 b.)
But to return from this painful digression. The three hours'
darkness was such not only to Nature; Jesus, also, entered into darkness: Body,
Soul, and Spirit. It was now, not as before, a contest - but suffering. Into this,
to us, fathomless depth of the mystery of His Sufferings, we dare not, as
indeed we cannot, enter. It was of the Body; yet not of the Body only, but of
physical life. And it was of the Soul and Spirit; yet not of them alone, but in
their conscious relation to man and to God. And it was not of the Human only in
Christ, but in its indissoluble connection with the Divine: of the Human, where
it reached the utmost verge of humiliation to body, soul, and spirit - and in
it of the Divine, to utmost self-examination. The increasing, nameless agonies
of the Crucifixion106
were deepening into the bitterness of death. All nature shrinks from death, and
there is a physical horror of the separation between body and soul which, as a
purely natural phenomenon, is in every instance only overcome, and that
only by a higher principle. And we conceive that the purer the being the
greater the violence of the tearing asunder of the bond with which God Almighty
originally bound together body and soul. In the Perfect Man this must have
reached the highest degree. So, also, had in those dark hours the sense of
man-forsakenness and His own isolation from man; so, also, had the intense
silence of God, the withdrawal of God, the sense of His God-forsakenness and
absolute loneliness. We dare not here speak of punitive suffering, but of
forsakenness and loneliness. And yet as we ask ourselves how this forsakenness can be though of as so complete in view of His Divine consciousness, which at
least could not have been wholly extinguished by His Self-examination, we feel
that yet another element must be taken into account. Christ on the Cross
suffered for man; He offered Himself a sacrifice; He died for our sins,
that, as death was the wages of sin, so He died as the Representative of man -
for man and in room of man; He obtained for man 'eternal redemption,'107
having given His Life 'a ransom,108
for many.' For, men were 'redeemed' with the 'precious Blood of Christ, as of a
Lamb without blemish and without spot;'109
and Christ 'gave Himself for us, that He might "redeem" us from all iniquity;'110
He 'gave Himself "a ransom" for all;'111
'Christ died for all;'112
Him, Who knew no sin, God 'made sin for us;' 'Christ redeemed us from the curse
of the Law, having become a curse for us' - and this, with express reference to
This sacrifice, vicarious, expiatory, and redemptive character of His Death, if
it does not explain to us, yet helps us to understand, Christ's sense of
God-forsakenness in the supreme moment of the Cross; if one might so word it -
the passive character of His activeness through the active character of His
are described with terrible realism by Keim.
107. aiwnian lutrwsin, Hebr. ix. 12.
108. lutron, St. Matt. xx. 28.
Pet. i. 19.
111. antilutron uper pantwn 1 Tim. ii. 6.
112. uper pantwn, 2 Cor. v. 15.
It was this combination of the Old Testament idea of sacrifice,
and of the Old Testament ideal of willing suffering as the Servant of Jehovah,
now fulfilled in Christ, which found its fullest expression in the language of
the twenty-second Psalm. It was fitting - rather, it was true - that the
willing suffering of the true Sacrifice should now find vent in its opening
words: 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?' - Eli, Eli, lema
These words, cried with a loud voice115
at the close of the period of extreme agony,116
marked the climax and the end of this suffering of Christ, of which the utmost
compass was the withdrawal of God and the felt loneliness of the Sufferer. But
they that stood by the Cross, misinterpreting the meaning, and mistaking the
opening words for the name Elias, imagined that the Sufferer had called
for Elias. We can scarcely doubt, that these were the soldiers who stood by the
Cross. They were not necessarily Romans; on the contrary, as we have seen,
these Legions were generally recruited from Provincials. On the other hand, no
Jew would have mistaken Eli for the name of Elijah, not yet
misinterpreted a quotation of Psalm xxii. 1 as a call for that prophet. And it
must be remembered, that the words were not whispered, but cried with a loud
voice. But all entirely accords with the misunderstanding of non-Jewish
soldiers, who, as the whole history shows, had learned from His accusers and
the infuriated mob snatches of a distorted story of the Christ.
in St. Matthew, according to the best reading. In St. Mark, Eloi, Eloi
[apparently the Syriac form], lema sabachthanei? Might it be that St.
Matthew represents the current Judæan or Galilean dialect, and St. Mark the
Syrian, and that this casts light alike on the dialects in Palestine at the
time of Christ, and even, to some extent, on the composition of the Gospels,
and the land in which they were written? The Targum renders Ps. xxii. 2: Eli,
Eli, metul mah shebhaqtani? ('On account of what hast Thou
in the extreme agony of soul, not to mark His Divinity.
the ninth hour.' I cannot bring myself here to discuss the supposed analogous
quotations of Ps. xxii. 1 in Rabbinic writings. The comparison is equally inapt
And presently the Sufferer emerged on the other side. It can
scarcely have been a minute or two from the time that the cry from the
twenty-second Psalm marked the high-point of His Agony, when the words 'I
thirst'117 seem to
indicate, by the prevalence of the merely human aspect of the suffering, that
the other and more terrible aspect of sin-bearing and God-forsakenness was
past. To us, therefore, this seems the beginning, if not of Victory, yet of
Rest, of the End. St. John alone records this Utterance, prefacing it with this
distinctive statement, that Jesus so surrendered Himself to the human feeling,
seeking the bodily relief by expressing His thirst: 'knowing that all things
were now finished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.'118
In other words, the climax of The anthropic Suffering in His feeling of
God-forsakenness, which had led to the utterance of Psalm xxii. 1, was now, to
His consciousness, the end of all which in accordance with Scripture-prediction
He had to bear. He now could and did yield Himself to the mere physical wants
of His Body.
John xix. 28.
words last quoted can, of course, and have by most writers been connected with
the thirst of Christ, as the fulfilment of Ps. lxix. 21. But the structure of
the sentence leads rather to the punctuation adopted in the text, while I have
the greatest difficulty in applying Ps. lxix. 21 in the manner proposed, and
still more grave objection to the idea that Christ uttered the words in order
to fulfil the Psalm, although the word 'that' must, as previously shown (p.
503), not be taken in the sense of 'in order that.' There is, of course, a tertium
quid, and the Evangelist may be supposed to have expressed only his own
sense that the Scripture was fulfilled, when he saw the thirst of the Saviour
quenched in the 'vinegar' of the soldiers. But in that case we should expect
the words 'that the Scripture might be fulfilled,' placed after the 'I
It seems as if St. John, having perhaps just returned to the
scene, and standing with the women 'afar off,' beholding these things,119
had hastened forward on the cry from Psalm xxii.,120
and heard Him express the feeling of thirst, which immediately followed. And so
St. John alone supplies the link between that cry and the movement on the part
of the soldiers, which St. Matthew and St. Mark, as well as St. John, report.
For, it would be impossible to understand why, on what the soldiers regarded as
a call for Elijah, one of them should have hastened to relieve His thirst, but
for the Utterance recorded in the Fourth Gospel. But we can quite understand
it, if the Utterance, 'I thirst,' followed immediately on the previous cry.
Luke xxiii. 49.
or not he heard the words of the cry.
One of the soldiers - may we not be allowed to believe, one who
either had already learned from that Cross, or was about to learn, to own Him
Lord - moved by sympathy, now ran to offer some slight refreshment to the
Sufferer by filling a sponge with the rough wine of the soldiers and putting it
to His lips, having first fastened it to the stem ('reed') of the caper
('hyssop'), which is said to grow to the height of even two or three feet.121
But, even so, this act of humanity was not allowed to pass unchallenged by the
coarse jibes of the others who would bid him leave the relief of the Sufferer
to the agency of Elijah, which in their opinion He had invoked. Nor should we perhaps
wonder at the weakness of that soldier himself, who, though he would not be
hindered in his good deed, yet averted the opposition of the others by
apparently joining in their mockery.122
Tristram Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 457.
Matt. xxvii. 48, 49; St. Mark xv. 36.
By accepting the physical refreshment offered Him, the Lord
once more indicated the completion of the work of His Passion. For, as He would
not enter on it with His senses and physical consciousness lulled by narcotised
wine, so He would not pass out of it with senses and physical consciousness
dulled by the absolute failure of life-power. Hence He took what for the moment
restored the physical balance, needful for thought and word. And so He
immediately passed on to 'taste death for every man.' For, the two last
'sayings' of the Saviour now followed in rapid succession: first, that with a
loud voice, which expressed it, that the work given Him to do, as far as
concerned His Passion, was 'finished;'123
and then, that in the words of Psalm xxxi. 5, in which He commended His Spirit
into the Hands of the Father.124
Attempts at comment could only weaken the solemn thoughts which the words
awaken. Yet some points should be noted for our teaching. His last cry 'with a
loud voice' was not like that of one dying. St. Mark notes, that this made such
deep impression on the Centurion.125
In the language of the early Christian hymn, it was not Death which approached
Christ, but Christ Death: He died without death.126
Christ encountered Death, not as conquered, but as the Conqueror. And this also
was part of His work, and for us: now the beginning of His Triumph. And with
this agrees the peculiar language of St. John, that He 'bowed the Head, and
gave up the Spirit' (to pneuma).
Mark xv. 39.
126. En pessima,
non tu/ Pervenis ad Christum, sed Christus pervenit ad te,/ Cui licuit sine morte mori. Sedulius.
Nor should we fail to mark the peculiarities of His last
Utterance. The 'My God' of the fourth Utterance had again passed into the
'Father' of conscious fellowship. And yet neither in the Hebrew original of
this Psalm, nor in its Greek rendering by the LXX., does the word 'Father'
occur. Again, in the LXX. translation of the Hebrew text this word expressive
of entrustment - the commending - is in the future tense; on the lips of our
Lord it is in the present tense.127
And the word, in its New Testament sense, means not merely commending: it is to
deposit, to commit for safe keeping.128
That in dying - or rather meeting and overcoming Death - He chose and adapted
these words, is matter for deepest thankfulness to the Church. He spoke them for
His people in a twofold sense: on their behalf, that they might be able to
speak them; and 'for them,' that henceforth they might speak them after Him.
How many thousands have pillowed their heads on them when going to rest! They
were the last words of a Polycarp, a Bernard, Huss, Luther, and Melanchthon.
And to us also they may be the fittest and the softest lullaby. And in 'the
Spirit' which He had committed to God did He now descend into Hades, 'and
preached unto the spirits in prison.'129
But behind this great mystery have closed the two-leaved gates of brass, which
only the Hand of the Conqueror could burst open.
according to the better reading.
the use of the verb paratiqhmi
in such passages as St. Luke xii. 48; Acts xiv. 23; xx. 32; 1 Tim. i. 18; 2
Tim. ii. 2.
Pet. iii. 18, 19.
And now a shudder ran through Nature, as its Sun had set. We
dare not do more than follow the rapid outlines of the Evangelic narrative. As
the first token, it records the rending of the Temple-Veil in two from the top
downward to the bottom; as the second, the quaking of the earth, the rending of
the rocks and the opening of the graves. Although most writers have regarded
this as indicating the strictly chronological succession, there is nothing in
the text to bind us to such a conclusion. Thus, while the rending of the Veil
is recorded first, as being the most significant token to Israel, it may have
been connected with the earthquake, although this alone might scarcely account
for the tearing of so heavy a Veil from the top to the bottom. Even the latter
circumstance has its significance. That some great catastrophe, betokening the
impending destruction of the Temple, had occurred in the Sanctuary about this
very time, is confirmed by not less than four mutually independent testimonies:
those of Tacitus,130
of the Talmud,132
and of earliest Christian tradition133.
The most important of these are, of course, the Talmud and Josephus. The latter
speaks of the mysterious extinction of the middle and chief light in the Golden
Candlestick, forty years before the destruction of the Temple; and both he and
the Talmud refer to a supernatural opening by themselves of the great
Temple-gates that had been previously closed, which was regarded as a portent
of the coming destruction of the Temple. We can scarcely doubt, that some
historical fact must underlie so peculiar and widespread a tradition, and we
cannot help feeling that it may be a distorted version of the occurrence of the
rending of the Temple-Veil (or of its report) at the Crucifixion of Christ.134
War vi. 5. 3.
Yoma 43 c; Yoma 39 b.
in the Gospel according to the Hebrews, from which St. Jerome quotes (in Matt.
xxvii. 51, and in a letter to Hedibia) to the effect, that the huge lintel of
the Temple was broken and splintered, and fell. St. Jerome connects the rending
of the Veil with this, and it would seem an obvious inference to connect again
this breaking of the lintel with an earthquake.
story is told in Jewish tradition (Gitt, 56 b, about the middle; Ber. R.
10; Vayyik. R. 22, and in other places) to the effect that, among other
vilenesses, 'Titus the wicked' had penetrated into the Sanctuary, and cut
through the Veil of the Most Holy Place with his sword, when blood dropped
down. I mention the legend to express my emphatic protest against the manner in
which Dr. Joel (Blicke in d. Religionsgesch. i. pp. 7, 8, treating of
the passage in the Midr. on Lam. ii. 17) has made use of it. He represents it,
as if the Veil had been rent (Zerreissen des Vorhanges bei d. Tempelzerstörung)
- not cut through by Titus, and on the basis of this misrepresentation has the
boldness to set a legend about Titus side by side with the Evangelic account of
the rending of the Temple-Veil! I write thus strongly because I am sorry to say
that this is by no means the only instance in which Jewish writers adapt their
quotations to controversial purposes. Joel refers to Dr. Sachs,
Beitr. i. p. 29, but that learned writer draws no such inference from the
passage in question.
But even if the rending of the Temple-Veil had commenced with
the earthquake, and, according to the Gospel to the Hebrews, with the breaking
of the great lintel over the entrance, it could not be wholly accounted for in
this manner. According to Jewish tradition, there were, indeed, two Veils
before the entrance to the Most Holy Place.135
The Talmud explains this on the ground that it was not known, whether in the
former Temple the Veil had hung inside or outside the entrance and whether the
partition-wall had stood in the Holy or Most Holy Place.136
Hence (according to Maimonides)137
there was not any wall between the Holy and Most Holy Place, but the space of
one cubit, assigned to it in the former Temple, was left unoccupied, and one
Veil hung on the side of the Holy, the other on that of the Most Holy Place.
According to an account dating from Temple-times, there were altogether
thirteen Veils used in various parts of the Temple - two new ones being made
The Veils before the Most Holy Place were 40 cubits (60 feet) long, and 20 (30
feet) wide, of the thickness of the palm of the hand, and wrought in 72
squares, which were joined together; and these Veils were so heavy, that, in
the exaggerated language of the time, it needed 3000 priests to manipulate
each. If the Veil was at all such as is described in the Talmud, it could not
have been rent in twain by a mere earthquake or the fall of the lintel, although
its composition in squares fastened together might explain, how the rent might
be as described in the Gospel.
Beth ha-Bech, iv. 2, ed. Amst. vol. iii. p. 149 b.
54 a Kethub. 106 a; Sheqal. viii. 5.
Indeed, everything seems to indicate that, although the
earthquake might furnish the physical basis, the rent of the Temple-Veil was -
with reverence be it said - really made by the Hand of God. As we compute, it
may just have been the time when, at the Evening-Sacrifice, the officiating
Priesthood entered the Holy Place, either to burn the incense or to do other
sacred service there. To see before them, not as the aged Zacharias at the
beginning of this history the Angel Gabriel, but the Veil of the Holy Place
rent from top to bottom - that beyond it they could scarcely have seen - and
hanging in two parts from its fastenings above and at the side, was, indeed, a
terrible portent, which would soon become generally known, and must, in some
form or other, have been preserved in tradition. And they all must have
understood, that it meant that God's Own Hand had rent the Veil, and for ever
deserted and thrown open that Most Holy Place where He had so long dwelt in the
mysterious gloom, only lit up once a year by the glow of the censer of him, who
made atonement for the sins of the people.139
this phenomenon account for the early conversion of so many priests recorded in
Acts vi. 7?
Other tokens were not wanting. In the earthquake the rocks were
rent, and their tombs opened. This, as Christ descended into Hades. And when He
ascended on the third day, it was with victorious saints who had left those
open graves. To many in the Holy City on that ever-memorable first day, and in
the week that followed, appeared the bodies of many of those saints who had
fallen on sleep in the sweet hope of that which had now become reality.140
dare express myself dogmatically on the precise import of St. Matt. xxvii. 52,
53. Does it mean that they were actually clothed with the Resurrection-body, or
with the body which they had formerly borne, or that many saints from out Hades
appeared to those who loved them, and with them had waited for the Kingdom, in
the forms which they had known? We know too little of the connection between
the other world and this, and the mode in which the departed may communicate
with those here, to venture on any decided statement, especially as we take
into account the unique circumstances of the occasion.
But on those who stood under the Cross, and near it, did all
that was witnessed make the deepest and most lasting impression. Among them we
specially mark the Centurion under whose command the soldiers had been. Many a
scene of horror must he have witnessed in those sad times of the Crucifixion,
but none like this. Only one conclusion could force itself on his mind. It was
that which, we cannot doubt, had made its impression on his heart and
conscience. Jesus was not what the Jews, His infuriated enemies, had described
Him. He was what He professed to be, what His bearing on the Cross and His
Death attested Him to be: 'righteous,' and hence, 'the Son of God.' From this
there was only a step to personal allegiance to Him, and, as previously
suggested, we may possibly owe to him some of those details which St. Luke
alone has preserved.
The brief spring-day was verging towards the 'evening of the
Sabbath.' In general, the Law ordered that the body of a criminal should not be
left hanging unburied over night.141
Perhaps in ordinary circumstances the Jews might not have appealed so
confidently to Pilate as actually to ask142
him to shorten the sufferings of those on the Cross, since the punishment of
crucifixion often lasted not only for hours but days, ere death ensued. But
here was a special occasion. The Sabbath about to open was a 'high-day' - it
was both a Sabbath and the second Paschal Day, which was regarded as in every
respect equally sacred with the first - nay, more so, since the so-called
Wavesheaf was then offered to the Lord. And what the Jews now proposed to
Pilate was, indeed, a shortening, but not in any sense a mitigation, of the
punishment. Sometimes there was added to the punishment of crucifixion that of
breaking the bones (crurifragium, skelokopia)
by means of a club or hammer. This would not itself bring death, but the
breaking of the bones was always followed by a coup de grâce, by sword,
lance, or stroke (the perforatio or percussio sub alas), which
immediately put an end to what remained of life.143
Thus the 'breaking of the bones' was a sort of increase of punishment, by way
of compensation for its shortening by the final stroke that followed.
xxi. 23; comp. Jos. War iv. 5. 2.
142. hrwthsan, they 'asked,' St. John xix.
Friedlieb, Archæol. d. Leidensgesch. pp.163-168; but especially Nebe,
u. s. ii. pp. 394, 395.
It were unjust to suppose, that in their anxiety to fulfil the
letter of the Law as to burial on the eve of that high Sabbath, the Jews had
sought to intensify the sufferings of Jesus. The text gives no indication of
this; and they could not have asked for the final stroke to be inflicted
without the 'breaking of the bones,' which always preceded it. The irony of
this punctilious care for the letter of the Law about burial and high Sabbath
by those who had betrayed and crucified their Messiah on the first Passover-day
is sufficiently great, and, let us add, terrible, without importing fictitious elements. St. John, who, perhaps, immediately on the death of Christ, left the
Cross, alone reports circumstance. Perhaps it was when he concerted with Joseph
of Arimathæa, with Nicodemus, or the two Marys, measures for the burying of
Christ, that he learned of the Jewish deputation to Pilate, followed it to
Prætorium, and then watched how it was all carried out on Golgotha. He records,
how Pilate acceded to the Jewish demand, and gave directions for the crurifragium,
and permission for the after-removal of the dead bodies, which otherwise might
have been left to hang, till putrescence or birds of prey had destroyed them.
But St. John also tells us what he evidently regards as so great a prodigy that
he specially vouches for it, pledging his own veracity, as an eyewitness, and
grounding on it an appeal to the faith of those to whom his Gospel is
addressed. It is, that certain 'things came to pass [not as in our A.
V., 'were done'] that the Scripture should be fulfilled,' or, to put it
otherwise, by which the Scripture was fulfilled. These things were two, to
which a third phenomenon, not less remarkable, must be added. For, first, when,
in the crurifragium, the soldiers had broken the bones of two
malefactors, and then came to the Cross of Jesus, they found that He was dead
already, and so 'a bone of Him' was 'not broken.' Had it been otherwise, the
Scripture concerning the Paschal Lamb,144
as well that concerning the Righteous Suffering Servant of Jehovah,145
would have been broken. In Christ alone these two ideas of the Paschal Lamb and
the Righteous Suffering Servant of Jehovah are combined into a unity and
fulfilled in their highest meaning. And when, by a strange concurrence of
circumstances, it 'came to pass' that, contrary to what might have been
expected, 'a bone of Him' was 'not broken' this outward fact served as the
finger to point to the predictions which were fulfilled of Him.
xii. 46; Numb. ix. 12.
Not less remarkable is the second fact. If, on the Cross of
Christ, these two fundamental ideas in the prophetic description of the work of
the Messiah had been set forth: the fulfilment of the Paschal Sacrifice, which,
as that of the Covenant, underlay all sacrifices, and the fulfilment of the
ideal of the Righteous Servant of God, suffering in a world that hated God, and
yet proclaimed and realising His Kingdom, a third truth remained to be
exhibited. It was not in regard to the character, but the effects, of the Work
of Christ - its reception, alike in the present and in the future. This had
been indicated in the prophecies of Zechariah,146
which foretold how, in the day of Israel's final deliverance and national
conversion, God would pour out the spirit of grace and of supplication, and as
'they shall look on Him Whom they pierced,' the spirit of true repentance would
be granted them, alike nationally and individually. The application of this to
Christ is the more striking, that even the Talmud refers the prophecy to the
Messiah.147 And as
these two things really applied to Christ, alike in His rejection and in His
so did the strange historical occurrence at His Crucifixion once more point to
it as the fulfilment of Scripture prophecy. For, although the soldiers, on
finding Jesus dead, broke not one of His Bones, yet, as it was necessary to
make sure of His Death, one of them, with a lance, 'pierced His Side,' with a
wound so deep, that Thomas might afterwards have thrust his hand into His Side.149
John xx. 27.
And with these two, as fulfilling Holy Scripture, yet a third phenomenon was associated, symbolic of both. As the soldier pierced the side
of the Dead Christ, 'forthwith came there out Blood and Water.' It has been
thought by some,150
that there was physical cause for this - that Christ had literally died of a
broken heart, and that, when the lance pierced first the lung filled with blood
and then the pericardium filled with serous fluid,151
there flowed from the wound this double stream.152
In such cases, the lesson would be that reproach had literally broken His
Heart.153 But we
can scarcely believe that St. John could have wished to convey this without
clearly setting it forth - thus assuming on the part of his readers knowledge
of an obscure, and, it must be added, a scientifically doubtful phenomenon.
Accordingly, we rather believe that to St. John, as to most of us, the
significance of the fact lay in this, that out of the Body of One dead had
flowed Blood and Water - that corruption had not fastened on Him. Then,
there would be the symbolic meaning conveyed by the Water (from the
pericardium) and the Blood (from the heart) - a symbolism most true, if
corruption had no power nor hold on Him - if in Death He was not dead, if He
vanquished Death and Corruption, and in this respect also fulfilled the
prophetic ideal of not seeing corruption.154
To this symbolic bearing of the flowing of Water and Blood from His pierced
side, on which the Evangelist dwells in his Epistle,155
and to its external expression in the symbolism of the two Sacraments, we can
only point the thoughtful Christian. For, the two Sacraments mean that Christ
had come; that over Him, Who was crucified for us and loved us unto death with
His broken heart, Death and Corruption had no power; and that He liveth for us
with the pardoning and cleansing power of His offered Sacrifice.
with various modifications, which need not here be detailed, first, Dr. Gruner
(Comment. Antiq. Med. de Jesu Christ Morte, Hal. 1805), who, however, regarded
Jesus as not quite dead when the lance pierced the heart, and, of late, Dr. Stroud
(The Physical Cause of the Death of Christ, 1871), and many interpreters (see Nebe,
u.s. pp. 400, 401).
certainly not through a separation of the serum and the cruor,
which is the mark of beginning putrefaction.
fullest and most satisfactory physical explanation is that given by the Rev. S.
Haughton, M.D., and reprinted in the Speaker's Commentary on 1 John, pp.
349, 350. It demonstrates, that this phenomenon would take place, but only if a
person who was also being crucified died of rupture of the heart.
John v. 6.
Yet one other scene remains to be recorded. Whether before, or,
more probably, after the Jewish deputation to the Roman Governor, another and a
strange application came to Pilate. It was from one apparently well known, a
man not only of wealth and standing,156
whose noble bearing157
corresponded to his social condition, and who was known as a just and a good
man.158 Joseph of
Arimathæa was a Sanhedrist,159
but he had not consented either to the counsel or the deed of his colleagues.
It must have been generally known that he was one of those 'which waited for
the Kingdom of God.' But he had advanced beyond what that expression implies.
Although secretly, for fear of the Jews.160
he was a disciple of Jesus. It is in strange contrast to this 'fear,' that St.
Mark tells us, that, 'having dared,'161
'he went in unto Pilate and asked for the Body of Jesus.' Thus, under
circumstances the most unlikely and unfavorable, were his fears converted into
boldness, and he, whom fear of the Jews had restrained from making open avowal
of discipleship during the life-time of Jesus, not only professed such of the
but took the most bold and decided step before Jews and Gentiles in connection
with it. So does trial elicit faith, and the wind, which quenches the feeble
flame that plays around the outside, fan into brightness the fire that burns
deep within, though for a time unseen. Joseph of Arimathæa, now no longer a
secret disciple, but bold in the avowal of his reverent love, would show to the
Dead Body of his Master all veneration. And the Divinely ordered concurrence of
circumstances not only helped his pious purpose, but invested all with deepest
symbolic significance. It was Friday afternoon, and the Sabbath was drawing
near.163 No time
therefore was to be lost, if due honour were to be paid to the Sacred Body.
Pilate give it to Joseph of Arimathæa. Such was within his power, and a favour
not unfrequently accorded in like circumstances.164
But two things must have powerfully impressed the Roman Governor, and deepened
his former thoughts about Jesus: first, that the death on the Cross had taken
place so rapidly, a circumstance on which he personally questioned the
Centurion,165 and then
the bold appearance and request of such a man as Joseph of Arimathæa.166
Or did the Centurion express to the Governer also some such feeling as that
which had found utterance under the Cross in the words: 'Truly this Man was the
Son of God?'
seems implied in the expression euschmwn
(A.V. 'honourable'), St. Mark xv. 43.
in connection with St. Luke xxiii. 51, this is probably the meaning of bouleuthV. Otherwise we would have
regarded him rather as a member of 'the Council of Priests' (Beth Din shel
Kohanim, Kethub. i. 5) which met in what anciently was called the Lishkath
Bulvatin (Chamber of Councillors) in the Temple (Jer. Yoma 38 c;
Yoma 8 b). The Greek work itself has passed into Rabbinic language as Bulyutos,
and in other modifications of the word.
the same time I feel, that this might have been represented by the Jews
as not quite importing what it really was - as rather an act of pietas
towards the Rabbi of Nazareth than of homage to the Messiahship of Jesus.
hmera paraskeuhV in connection
with 'the Sabbath' (St. Luke xxiii. 54) shows, that the former expression
refers to 'the preparation' for the Sabbath, or the Friday.
the proof in Wetstein, ad loc.
Arimathæa of Joseph is probably the modern Er-Ram, two hours north of
Jerusalem, on a conical hill, somewhat east of the road that leads from
Jerusalem to Nablus (Jos. Ant. viii. 12. 3) - the Armathaim of the LXX.
The objection of Keim (which it would take too long to discuss in a
note) are of no force (comp. his Jesu von Naz. iii. p. 516). It is one of the
undesigned evidences of the accuracy of St. Luke, that he described it as
belonging to Judæa. For, whereas Ramah in Mount Ephraim originally belonged to
Samaria, it was afterwards separated from the latter and joined to the province
of Judæa (comp. 1 Macc. x. 38; xi. 28, 34).
The proximity of the holy Sabbath, and the consequent need of
haste, may have suggested or determined the proposal of Joseph to lay the Body
of Jesus in his own rock-hewn new tomb,167
wherein no one had yet been laid.168
The symbolic significance of this is the more marked, that the symbolism was
undersigned. These rock-hewn sepulchres, and the mode of laying the dead in
them, have been very fully described in connection with the burying of Lazarus169
We may therefore wholly surrender ourselves to the sacred thoughts that gather
around us. The Cross was lowered and laid on the ground; the cruel nails drawn
out, and the ropes unloosed. Joseph, with those who attended him, 'wrapped' the
Sacred Body 'in a clean linen cloth,' and rapidly carried It to the rock-hewn
tomb in the garden close by. Such a rock-hewn tomb or cave (Meartha) had
niches (Kukhin), where the dead were laid. It will be remembered, that
at the entrance to 'the tomb' - and within 'the rock' - there was 'a court,'
nine feet square, where ordinarily the bier was deposited, and its bearers
gathered to do the last offices for the Dead. Thither we suppose Joseph to have
carried the Sacred Body, and then the last scene to have taken place. For now
another, kindred to Joseph in spirit, history, and position, had come. The
same spiritual Law, which had brought Joseph to open confession, also
constrained the profession of that other Sanhedrist, Nicodemus. We remember,
how at the first he had, from fear of detection, come to Jesus by night, and
with what bated breath he had pleaded with his colleagues not so much the cause
of Christ, as on His behalf that of law and justice.170
He now came, bringing 'a roll' of myrrh and aloes, in the fragrant mixture well
known to the Jews for purposes of anointing or burying.
regards the s statement of St. Matthew to the effect (xxvii. 60) as
inconsistent with the notice in St. John xix. 42. I really cannot see any
inconsistency, nor does his omission of the fact that the tomb was Joseph's
seem to me fatal. The narrative of St. John is concentrated on the burying
rather than its accessories. Professor Westcott thinks that St. John
xix. 41, implies 'that the sepulcher in which the Lord was laid was not chosen
as His final resting-place.' But of this also I do not perceive evidence.
Book IV. ch. xxi.
John vii. 50.
It was in 'the court' of the tomb that the hasty embalmment -
if such it may be called - took place. None of Christ's former disciples seem
to have taken part in the burying. John may have withdrawn to bring tidings to,
and to comfort the Virgin-Mother; the others also, that had 'stood after off,
beholding,' appear to have left. Only a few faithful ones,171
notably among them Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, the mother of Jesus,
stood over against the tomb, watching at some distance where and how the Body
of Jesus was laid. It would scarcely have been in accordance with Jewish
manners, if these women had mingled more closely with the two Sanhedrists and
their attendants. From where they stood they could only have had a dim view of
what passed within the court, and this may explain how, on their return, they
'prepared spices and ointments'172
for the more full honours which they hoped to pay the Dead after the Sabbath
was past.173 For, it
is of the greatest importance to remember, that haste characterised all that
was done. It seems as if the 'clean linen cloth' in which the Body had been
wrapped, was now torn into 'cloths' or swathes, into which the Body, limb by
limb, was now 'bound,'174
no doubt, between layers of myrrh and aloes, the Head being wrapped in a
napkin. And so they laid Him to rest in the niche of the rock-hewn new tomb.
And as they went out, they rolled, as was the custom, a 'great stone' - the Golel
- to close the entrance to the tomb,175
probably leaning against it for support, as was the practice, a smaller stone -
the so-called Dopheq.176
It would be where the one stone was laid against the other, that on the next
day, Sabbath though it was, the Jewish authorities would have affixed the seal,
so that the slightest disturbance might become apparent.177
John computes it at about 100 litras. As in all likelihood this would
refer to Roman pounds, of about twelve ounces each, the amount is large, but
not such as to warrant any reasonable objection. a servant could easily carry
it, and it is not said that it was all used in the burying. If it were possible
to find any similar use of the expression (litraV),
one might be tempted to regard the litras as indicating not the weight,
but a coin. In that sense the word litra is used, sometimes as =
100 denars, in which case 100 litras would be = about 250 l., but more
frequently as = 4 drachms, in which case 100 litras would be=about 12l.
(comp. Herzfeld. Handelsgesch. p. 181). But the linguistic difficulty
seems very great, while any possible objection to the weight of the spices is
really inconsiderable. For the kind of spices used in the burying, see Book IV.
ch. xxi. (as the burying of Lazarus). In later times there was a regular rubric
and prayers with Kabbalistic symbolism (see Perles, Leichenfeierlichk.
p. 11, Note 12). No doubt, the wounds in the Sacred Body of our Lord had been
washed from their gore.
Synopists record, that the Body of Jesus was 'wrapped' in a 'linen cloth;' St.
John tells us that it was 'bound' with the aloes and myrrh of Nicodemus into
'swathes' or 'cloths,' even as they were found afterwards in the empty tomb,
and by their side 'the napkin,' or soudarion, for the head. I have tried
to combine the account of the Synoptists and that of St. John into a continuous
it must be admitted, that there are difficulties on this particular. See the
remarks on this point at pp. 623 and 631, but especially pp, 636, 637.
It was probably about the same time, that a noisy throng
prepared to follow delegates from
the Sanhedrin to the ceremony of cutting the Passover-sheaf. The Law had it,
"he shall bring a sheaf [literally, the Omer] with the first-fruits of your
harvest, unto the priest; and he shall wave the Omer before Jehovah, to be
accepted for you." This Passover-sheaf was reaped in public the evening before
it was offered, and it was to witness this ceremony that the crowd had gathered
around the elders. Already on the 14th Nisan the spot whence the first sheaf
was to be reaped had been marked out, by tying together in bundles, while still
standing, the barley that was to be cut down, according to custom, in the
sheltered Ashes-Valley across Kidron. When the time for cutting the sheaf had
arrived - that is, on the evening of the 15th Nisan, even though it were a
Sabbath, just as the sun went down, three men, each with a sickle and basket,
set to work. Clearly to bring out what was distinctive in the ceremony, they
first asked of the bystanders three times each of these questions: "Has the sun
gone down?" "With this sickle?" "Into this basket?" "On this Sabbath? (or first
Passover-day)" - and, lastly, "shall I reap?" Having each time been answered in
the affirmative, they cut down barley to the amount of one ephah, or about
three pecks and three pints of our English measure. This is not the place to
follow the ceremony farther - how the corn was threshed out, parched, ground,
and one omer of the flour, mixed with oil and frankincense, waved before the
Lord in the Temple on the second Paschal day (or 16th of Nisan). But, as this
festive procession started, amidst loud demonstrations, a small band of
mourners turned from having laid their dead Master in His resting-place. The
contrast is as sad as it is suggestive. And yet, not in the Temple, nor by the
priest, but in the silence of that garden-tomb, was the first Omer of the new
Paschal flour to be 'waved before the Lord.'178
178. See 'The Temple and its Services,' pp. 221-224.
'Now on the morrow, which is after the
preparation [the Friday], the chief priests and the Pharisees were gathered
together unto Pilate, saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, which
He was yet alive, After three days I rise again. Command, therefore, that the
sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest haply His disciples come and
steal Him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last
error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them, Take a guard, go
your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure,
sealing the stone, the guard being with them.'
But was there really need for it? Did they, who had spent what
remained of daylight to prepare spices wherewith to anoint the Dead Christ,
expect His Body to be removed, or did they expect - perhaps in their sorrow
even think of His word: 'I rise again?' But on that holy Sabbath, when the
Sanhedrists were thinking of how to make sure of the Dead Christ, what were the
thoughts of Joseph of Arimathæa and Nicodemus, of Peter and John, of the other
disciples, and especially of the loving women who only waited for the first
streak of Easter-light to do their last service of love? What were their
thoughts of God - what of Christ - what of the Words He had spoken, the Deeds
He had wrought, the salvation He had come to bring, and the Kingdom of Heaven
which He was to open to all believers?
Behind Him had closed the gates of Hades; but upon them rather
than upon Him had fallen the shadows of death. Yet they still loved Him - and
stronger than death was love.
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