IS IT GOD'S WORD?
MORE "HARMONY OF THE GOSPELS"
THE CLOSING SCENES OF THE DRAMA
R RMORE "HARMONY OF THE GOSPELS" R R THE LAST SUPPER R R THE "LORD'S SUPPER" OR EUCHARIST R R THE BETRAYAL AND ARREST
R RPETER'S DENIAL OF JESUS R R THE TRIAL OF JESUS R R THE CRUCIFIXION R R BEARING THE CROSS R R WHEN WAS IT?
R RTHE INSCRIPTION R R THE WITNESSES R R THE INCIDENTS AT THE CRUCIFIXION R R THE LAST WORDS R R THE WONDERS AT DEATH
R RTHE BURIAL SCENE R R THE RESURRECTION R R BREAKING THE RESURRECTION NEWS R R POST-RESURRECTION APPEARANCES OF JESUS
R RTHE FIRST APPEARANCE R R THE SECOND APPEARANCE R R THIRD APPEARANCE R R FOURTH APPEARANCE
R RSUNDAY OTHER APPEARANCES R R THE ASCENSION R R NOBODY BELIEVED THE "IDLE TALES" R R A PROPHET WITHOUT HONOR
R RRETURN TO THE INDEX OF CHAPTERS
WE have thus reviewed the salient features of the recorded events of the birth and career of the Man of Nazareth, and thus have been enabled to form an intelligent, if amazed, judgment as to their inspired and historical verity. Let us regard now the closing scenes of the sacred tragedy of the Son of Yahveh made man, in the distressing episodes of his betrayal, condemnation, and ignominious death, and in his glorious triumph over death, his resurrection from the dead, his various subsequent appearances to the living, and his transcendent ascension into heaven to sit with his Father Yahveh until his coming again in glory to establish his promised kingdom -- which he was to have established during his life on earth; no return, or "second coming," for this purpose is once prophesied.
THE LAST SUPPER
The holding and eating of a Jewish Passover supper by thirteen poor wandering Jews, in a borrowed dining room (Matt. 26: 18, 19; Mark 14: 14, 15; Luke 22: 9-13 ), would seem to be a simple affair, to be narrated by divinely inspired chroniclers with little effort and with fair chances for truth. But already one inspired contradiction stares us in the face. Was it the Passover supper or just an ordinary meal? Three of the gospel recorders declare expressly that the Last Supper was the Passover meal; John says that it was a supper eaten before the Passover.
According to the synoptists: "The disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the Passover? ... And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the Passover. Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve" (Matt. 26: 17, 19, 20; Mark 14: 12, 14, 16, 17; Luke 22: 7, 8, 11, 13, 14 ). Luke quotes Jesus expressly as saying, after they were all seated: "With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer" (Luke 22: 15 ). Thus it was the Passover supper. But John positively controverts this, saying: "Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father. ... And supper being ended" (John 13: 1, 2 ), then it was that the devil instigated Judas to betray Jesus. The Last Supper was thus before the Passover and was not the Passover supper.
That one of the Twelve should betray him Jesus announced during the Last Supper: "And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto You, that one of you shall betray me" (Matt. 26: 21; Mark 14: 18 ). But it was after the supper was finished and the cup passed that Jesus made the announcement: "Behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table" (Luke 22: 20, 21; John 13: 2, 21 ). Judas thereupon asked: "Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said" (Matt. 26: 25 ); but according to John, instead of this direct question by Judas, betraying his guilty conscience, and the affirmative answer of Jesus, John, at the instance of Peter, asked the question: "Lord, who is it? Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop. ... And ... he gave it to Judas Iscariot" (John 13: 23-26 ). The identity of the betrayer was not, however, disclosed, according to Mark; each of the Twelve asked him "one by one, Is it I? ... And he answered and said unto them, It is one of the twelve, that dippeth with me in the dish" (Mark 14: 19-20 ); Luke says only that the disciples "began to enquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing," and Jesus made no disclosure other than the remark above quoted (Luke 22: 21, 23 ). Yet John represents the disciples as not knowing or understanding what Jesus meant: for after Judas had received the sop, "Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him" (John 13: 27, 28 ). And Judas, "having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night" (John 13: 30 ); though Judas had already been possessed of Satan, and had arranged the betrayal for the thirty pieces, some days before the last Passover (Matt. 26: 14-17; Mark 14: 10, 11; Luke 22: 3-7 ).
THE "LORD'S SUPPER" OR EUCHARIST
Immediately after the Last Supper a ceremony was performed by Jesus, which the synoptists declare to have been the Lord's Supper or Eucharist, but which John asserts was the simple act of washing the feet of the disciples. (John was the only gospel writer present.) John does not mention the former institution, and the others do not mention the foot washing; but both are said to have been the final act of Jesus before going out to Gethsemane and betrayal.
During the supper and before the ceremony of the Eucharist, Jesus passed a cup of wine to the disciples, and said: "I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come (Luke 22: 18 ). But the remark, according to Matthew, was not made until after the ceremonial of the Lord's Supper, and in connection with it, and Jesus said that he would no more drink of the fruit of the vine "until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom" (Matt. 26: 26-29 ). The difference here is great: one statement is that he would drink again on earth when the kingdom of God was come, as it was scheduled to do immediately; the other is that he would drink it with the disciples some time in heaven. Mark also makes the statement come after the ceremony, and Jesus was to drink either on earth or in heaven, but quite alone; the disciples were not included in the invitation: "until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God" (Mark 14: 25 ). According to two reports the cup was passed but once, and the remark of Jesus was made at that time (Matt. 26: 26-30; Mark 14: 22-26 ); the other says the cup was passed twice, first during supper, when the remark was made, and "likewise after supper," when the Eucharist was instituted (Luke 22: 17, 18, 20 ).
Just what this eucharistic ceremonial was and whether it was intended as a perpetual memorial or was for that occasion only is a question of first concern, and like all other gospel truth is sadly confused and contradictory. If John, who was the only evangelist who attended the Last Supper, is believed, there was no eucharistic ceremony at all; only foot washing (John 13: 4-12 ). But according to the synoptists, Jesus took bread and wine, blessed them, and passed them to the disciples, saying, as to the bread: "Take, eat; this is my body" (Matt. 26: 26; Mark 14: 22 ); or, "this is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me" (Luke 22: 19 ). Luke's report cannot be authentic if the other two are true. The chief tangle of inspiration is with respect to the wine. What was the mystic purpose for which the Christ's blood was to be shed?
Jesus said, according to Matthew:
"Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." (Matt. 26: 27, 28 )
Jesus said, according to Mark:
"This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many." (Mark 14: 24 )
Jesus said, according to Luke:
"This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you." (Luke 22: 20 )
More notable discrepancies on a more important tenet of Christianity there could hardly be. The blood of Jesus, symbolized by the wine, was shed for the disciples only, "shed for you" alone, says Luke; it was "shed for many," but for whom is not specified, according to Mark; it was "shed for many for the remission of sins," according to Matthew, who is notoriously the purveyor of the amplest inspiration, and always embellishes the reports of the others. This revelation of the greatest of Christian doctrines, the atonement, is either falsely ascribed by Matthew to Jesus; or Mark and Luke have ignorantly or intentionally omitted it. The words attributed to Jesus by Luke are entirely different from those quoted by the others, even in the first part of the sentence. Not more than one of the three can possibly be accurate; the other two are necessarily false.
With respect to the bread only one of the three quotes words which are construed as establishing a permanent institution: "Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22: 19 ). This is far from having the immense significance attributed to the simple words. One single instance suffices for a token of remembrance of a departing friend or companion; a farewell kiss is very often "something to remember me by," perhaps, by the very circumstances of the incident, never to be repeated. Matthew and Mark do not record even this ambiguous remark; and John omits the whole of the Lord's Supper.
John only of the Gospel recorders was an eye and ear witness to the proceedings of the -- not Passover, but simply last meal together. The "supper being ended" Jesus "riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water in a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. ... So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, be said unto them" etc. (John 13: 2, 4, 5, 12 ).
John then, without a word of the Lord's Supper, records verbatim a long speech by Jesus (covering the remainder of chapter 13 and all of chapters 14-17 ). Then, "when Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples" (John 18: 1 ). Whether, then, the "mystery of the blessed Eucharist" or simple foot washing was there ordained is not yet unriddled.
THE BETRAYAL AND ARREST
Next comes the affecting incident of the betrayal and capture of Jesus, by night, in the Garden of Gethsemane. Of the posse comitatus which effected the capture, its source, its personnel, its material. Matthew thus writes:
"And while he [Jesus] yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people." (Matt. 26: 47 )
Mark records it thus:
"And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders." (Mark 14: 43 )
"And while he yet spake, behold a multitude and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them. ... Then Jesus said unto the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to him," etc. (Luke 22: 47, 52 )
"Judas then, having received a band of men [Revised Version, "soldiers"] and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons." (John 18: 3 )
The discrepancies in the foregoing four accounts of the posse are, in a narration of inspired truth, significant. Matthew says the posse was sent by "the chief priests and elders"; Mark, by the "chief priests, and the scribes and the elders"; Luke, that the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders" went in person with the posse; John says that it was sent by the "chief priests and Pharisees." Matthew and Mark say that Judas took along "a great multitude," Luke, simply "a multitude," all civilians.
John, much more precisely, says "a band of men and officers," all soldiers (R.V.). Since this whole proceeding was by night, it may naturally be somewhat in the dark, notwithstanding the "lanterns and torches" of John's soldiers.
Secondly, as to what happened when Judas and his posse arrived at the garden. Matthew says:
"Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him." (Matt. 26: 48-50 )
"And he that had betrayed him had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead him away safely. And as soon as he was come, be goeth straightway to him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed him. And they laid their hands on him, and took him." (Mark 14: 44-4-6 )
"Judas ... went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him. But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?" (Luke 22: 47,48 )
John relates that as the hand of soldiers approached at some distance,
"Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground. Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way. ... Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him." (John 18: 4-8, 12 )
The conflicts of testimony are glaring here. Matthew and Mark are substantially agreed, declaring that Judas had prearranged to point out Jesus to his civilian posse by kissing him; and they both say that Judas went straightway to Jesus, hailed him "Master," and kissed him. But Luke does not testify that Judas kissed Jesus; he says only that he "drew near unto Jesus to kiss him"; and that Jesus, telepathically knowing his purpose, checked him, saying: "Judas, betrayest thou me with a kiss?" John contradicts the contradictory reports of all three of the others in his version. Judas, instead of going "before them," as Luke says, simply "stood with them"; and as soon as Jesus had said "I am he," the whole company of soldiers, with Judas, terrified, "went backward, and fell to the ground." John says the soldiers then "took Jesus and bound him" (18: 12 ); according to Matthew (27: 2 ) and Mark (15: 1 ) Jesus was not bound until he was sent to Pilate. No contradictions in human language could be plainer than these.
The little incident of Peter's cutting off the ear of one of the posse is related by Matthew thus:
"And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword." (Matt. 26: 51, 52 )
Mark tells it thus:
"And one of them that stood by drew a sword, and smote a servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. And Jesus answered and said unto them, Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me?" (Mark 14: 47, 48 )
Luke tells it thus:
"When they which were about him saw what would follow [the kissing], they said unto him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword? And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear, And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him." (Luke 22: 49-51 )
John relates it thus:
"Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" (John 18: 10, 11 )
Little as this incident is, these four inspired historians cannot tell just how it happened. Matthew relates that "one of them which were with Jesus" struck, and Jesus simply said: "Put up again thy sword." Mark speaks of the sword-play as by "a certain one of them that stood by"; and Jesus said nothing about putting up the sword, but said to the posse: "Are ye come out as against a thief?" Luke tells us that "they which were about" Jesus, seeing what was going to follow the undelivered kiss, asked permission as for a general affray, saying: "Lord, may we smite with the sword?" and one of them without waiting for a reply, cut off the servant's ear. Jesus, when it was too late, answered in the negative; then Luke, the physician, puts in a word for his profession, and tells us that Jesus performed a miracle by healing the ear. No one else relates this, the most remarkable incident of the whole evening. John goes into his usual detail and gives us the name of Peter as the aggressor, says nothing about the asking permission for a general assault, and gives the name of the wounded servant. And he reports that Jesus told Peter to put up his sword, for he himself must take his medicine out of the cup prepared for him. Each reader may take his choice as to how it happened or did not happen. It is related that "then all the disciples forsook him, and fled" (Matt. 26: 56 ).
PETER'S DENIAL OF JESUS
We shall now take up the trial of Jesus as recorded by his four inspired reporters. I omit, of course, all reference to Jewish or Roman law and legal practice, as the Bible account must stand or fall on its own internal consistency. The italics, used to call attention to the contradictions, are mine.
First, we shall consider the incident of Peter's denial, the beginning of which precedes the trial. This takes us back a moment for our authority. Jesus is reported to have predicted this denial of Peter, in rebuking his vain boast of unfailing fidelity.
Matthew states the events thus:
"And when they had sung an hymn, they went out [from the Last Supper] into the mount of Olives. ... Jesus said unto him [Peter], Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the
cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice." (Matt. 26: 30, 34 )
Mark relates the events thus:
"And in the evening he [Jesus] cometh with the twelve. ... And Jesus saith unto him [Peter], Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. ... And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane." (Mark 14: 17, 30, 32 )
Luke writes thus:
"And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me. ... And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives." (Luke 22: 14, 34,, 39 )
John relates the events thus:
"And supper being ended, ... Jesus answered him [Peter). ... Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice." (John 13: 2, 38 )
Here we have more conflicting truths. Matthew says that the accusation of Peter was made by Jesus after the Last Supper, in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. Mark, Luke, and John deny this, and assert that it occurred during the Last Supper, and that they then, afterwards, went to the mount. Matthew, Luke, and John report Jesus as saying that "before the cock crows" once, Peter would deny him thrice; Mark makes him say "before the cock crows twice," Peter would make the three denials. The reader may accept either of these cock-tales which he most relishes.
Now, how did these prophesied denials of Peter's come about, and what were their attendant circumstances?
Matthew relates the story thus:
"And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest's palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end. [The trial was proceeding -- verses 59-68.] Now Peter sat without in the palace, [i.e., in the courtyard]: and a damsel came unto him, saying," etc. "But he denied before them all, saying," etc. "And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said," etc. "And again he denied with an oath. ... And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter." etc. "Then began he to curse and to swear, saying I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice." (Matt. 26: 57, 58, 69-75 )
Mark reports the matter with important variations:
"And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes. And Peter followed him afar off, even into the palace of the high priest: and he sat with the servants and warmed himself at the fire. [The trial then progressed -- verses 55- 65.] And as Peter was beneath in the palace [i.e., in the courtyard], there cometh one of the maids of the high priest, and said," etc. "But he denied. ... And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew. And a maid saw him again, and began to say," etc. And he denied it again. And a little while after they that stood by said again to Peter," etc. But he began to curse and to swear. ... And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice." (Mark 14: 53, 54, 66-72 )
Luke relates the incident, with marked differences, as occurring on the next day before the trial:
"Then took they him [Jesus], and led him, and brought him into the high priest's house. And Peter followed afar off. And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them. But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, ... and said," etc. "And he denied him, saying," etc. "And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not. And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed," etc. "And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice." (Luke 22: 54-61 )
John gives a totally different report:
The soldiers "led him away to Annas first. ... And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple: that disciple ... went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest. But Peter stood at the door without. [Later the maid that kept the door let Peter in.] Then saith the damsel that kept the door unto Peter," etc., and he denied. The servants and officers and Peter were standing there warming themselves. The trial, apparently before Annas, was proceeding, (18: 19-24 ). "And Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. They said therefore unto him," etc. "He denied it. ... One of the servants ... saith," etc. Peter then denied again: and immediately the cock crew." (John 18: 13, 15-18, 25-27 )
The conflicts and contradictions in the relation of this trifling incident are astonishing. It is difficult to untangle the twisted narrative into its several warped strands. Matthew, Mark, and Luke lay this incident of denials and cock-crowing at the house of the high priest, Caiaphas; John lays it partly at the house of Caiaphas and partly at the house of Annas. Matthew and Mark say that it took place during the night trial of Jesus at the house of Caiaphas; Luke says that it occurred during the night, but during no trial, as Jesus was simply held a prisoner in the courtyard overnight, and his trial took place next day; John says -- well, Aristotle himself could hardly tell what John says; it is so mixed. I pass this puzzle till we come to the account of the trial.
To whom the denials were made, and where, is a matter of much conflict. As to the first denial, Matthew says that Peter was sitting without in the court, and a maid came unto him. Mark says that as Peter was "beneath in" the court, "one of the maids" came to him. Luke, says a certain maid saw him as he sat by the fire. John says it was the maid who kept the door of the court and who let Peter in.
As to the second denial, Matthew says that when Peter was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him. Mark says, when Peter was out in the porch, the same maid as at first saw him. Luke says Peter was still by the fire and that it was a man, Peter replying: "Man, I am not." John says it was "they" (officers and servants).
Of the third denial, Matthew says that after a little while "they that stood by" came. Mark says the same. Luke says that after the space of about one hour, "another man." John says "one of the servants."
Matthew, Luke, and John report the cock as crawing only once, and after the third denial; Mark says that the cock crowed twice, after the second and after the third denials. Matthew, Luke, and John record Peter as thereupon remembering that Jesus had said to him: "Before the cock crows [once], thou shalt deny me thrice"; Mark makes Peter remember that Jesus had said: "Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice." Luke says that Jesus was present at the denial, and "turned, and looked upon Peter"; the others all represent Jesus as not present.
THE TRIAL OF JESUS
This brings us to the trial of Jesus Christ. Matthew thus relates the trial scene:
"And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. ... Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death. Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; ... Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee? ... When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate, the governor." (Matt. 26: 57,59-67; 27: 1, 2 )
Mark's account of the trial scene (Mark 14: 15: 1 ) is substantially identical with Matthew's; therefore I do not repeat it.
Luke records the scene entirely differently. To get the connection I shall have to repeat a few verses offered in connection with the story of the "denial."
"But a certain maid beheld him [Peter] as he sat by the fire, and said," etc. "And he denied," etc. "And ... the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. ... And the men that held Jesus mocked him, and smote him. And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote thee? And many other things blasphemously spake they against him. And as soon as it was day the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led him into their council, saying, Art thou the Christ? tell us. And he said unto them, If I tell you ye will not believe. And if I also ask you, ye will not answer me, nor let me go. Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God. Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? And he said unto them, Ye say that I am. And they said, What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of his own mouth. And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate." (Luke 22: 56-71; 23: 1 )
John gives a still different account of the scene:
"Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him, And led him away to Annas first; for he was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year. The high priest then asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine. Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me, what I said unto them: behold, they know what I said. And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest thou the high priest so? Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me? Now Annas had sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest." (John 18: 12, 13, 19-24 )
The first two evangelists, Matthew and Mark, practically agree in their accounts of the trial: it was before Caiaphas; it was during the night when Jesus was captured; false witnesses testified; Jesus made statements which were considered blasphemous, and was judged worthy of death; and on the next morning he was carried before the Roman governor, Pilate. But Luke completely discredits the reports of Matthew and Mark. For Luke makes it plain that there was no trial during the night; Jesus passed the night in the courtyard with his guard and Peter; and the next morning, "as soon as it was day," the council assembled, "and they led him into their council." The proceedings are related with some minor differences, of which only one need be noticed. The high priest asked Jesus: "Art thou the Christ? ... And Jesus said, "I am" (Mark 14: 61, 62 ); but Luke says that Jesus replied: "If I tell you, ye will not believe" (Luke 22: 67 ). John says that Jesus was first taken to Annas, at whose house some proceedings and one of Peter's denials seem to have taken place; then "Annas sent [Jesus] bound unto Caiaphas the high priest." Whether by night or day does not appear.
After the proceedings before Caiaphas, Jesus was taken to Pilate for final sentence. There are many variants in the four records of the proceedings before Pilate, but I shall pass all except the most glaring. Luke represents the proceedings before Pilate as held in the presence of the accusers of Jesus: "And led him unto Pilate. And they began to accuse him. ... And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him. ... And Pilate ... said unto them ... behold, 1:having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof you accuse him" (Luke 23: 1, 2, 10, 13, 14; cf. Matt. 27: 12-14; Mark 15: 1-4 ). But John declares that the hearing before Pilate was ex parte, without witnesses or accusers present: "Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled. ... Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man? ... Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus" (John 18: 28, 29, 33 ). Pilate said to the Jews: "Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, "It is not lawful for us to put any man to death" (John 18: 31 ). A little later, "the Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die" (John 19: 7 ). But in those days Jews were noted liars.
The result of the so-called trial was, by complete harmony of the gospels, that Pilate declared Jesus innocent -- and sentenced him to death! "Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him" (John 19: 6 )! Somewhat odd, this, for the highest court of the land to adjudge a man not guilty and then pronounce the sentence of death! Such is inspired truth. Then the soldiers "stripped [Jesus], and put on him a scarlet robe" (Matt. 27: 28 ); but John calls it "a purple robe" (John 19: 2 ).
If this action of Pilate is denounced as infamous, Jesus says that his Father Yahveh was the greater criminal. He said to Pilate: "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee [Yahveh] hath the greater sin" (John 19: 11 )! Good for Jesus!
The immediate scene of the Crucifixion offers several points of conflict. Let it be remembered that we now have to do with the most stupendous series of events in all time -- if any of them ever happened at all. The jewel of consistency should crown the inspired record of these wonders. Amid all the miracles appealed to, to accredit the story of the death and resurrection of a God, the seal of God's truth should blaze upon this supreme miracle for the faith of mankind. Let us look for the miracle of truth in these four records.
BEARING THE CROSS
Matthew (27: 32 ), Mark (15: 21 ), and Luke (23: 26 ) say that on the way to Golgotha with Jesus, one Simon a Cyrenian was "compelled to go with them, that he might bear his cross"; John, who says he was there, declares (19: 17 ) that Jesus himself, bearing the cross for himself, went forth to Golgotha.
WHEN WAS IT?
The time of the Crucifixion is much confused, both as to the day and the hour of the day. We have seen three of the gospel historians declare that the Last Supper was itself the Passover meal; John says it was before the Passover; and John, the most intimate friend of Jesus, who was with him at the foot of the cross, says that he was crucified before the Passover, and after noon: "And it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour" (19: 14 ) when Jesus was delivered up to be crucified (19: 16 ); he was taken to Golgotha (19: 17 ); and Pilate came and wrote the inscription (19: 19 ); so that the Crucifixion took place some time after noon, and before the Passover, "because it was the preparation" (19: 31 ). Thus Jesus did not eat the Passover. According to the other three accounts, the Crucifixion took place the day after the Passover; a difference of two days.
Matthew says that the Crucifixion lasted from noon to three o'clock: "Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour" (Matt. 27: 45 ). But Mark says: "It was the third hour [9 a.m.], and they crucified him" (Mark 15: 25 ); though he joins Matthew in making the dying cry come at the ninth hour, or 3 p.m. (15: 34 ), as does Luke (23: 44 ); so that Jesus, according to two recorders, hung for three hours on the cross; for six hours, according to Mark.
Jesus was crucified with an inscription above his head. With respect to this Matthew says:
"And [the soldiers who crucified Jesus) set up over his head his accusation written, This is Jesus the King of the Jews." (Matt. 27: 37 )
"And the superscription of his accusation was written over, The King of the Jews." (Mark 15: 26 )
"And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, This is the King of the Jews." (Luke 23: 38 )
"And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." (John 19: 19 )
And John, who says he was there throughout, adds a totally new incident:
"Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews. Pilate answered, What I have written I have written." (John 19: 21 )
The inscription reads four different ways, with really vital differences of text. Luke, who did not see it, and John (19: 20 ) say that it was written in three languages, on the order of the Rosetta Stone. Mark and Luke say that the name of Jesus was not in the inscription, which simply read: "This is the King of the Jews"; Mark makes it even more laconic by omitting the first two words. Matthew declares that it named Jesus; John asserts that it gave him both name and title, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Matthew says that the soldiers who crucified Jesus set up the inscription; Mark and Luke say simply that it "was written," without indicating its writer; John flatly contradicts Matthew's statement that the soldiers did it, declaring that Pilate wrote it
and put it on the cross. The colloquy about the text between Pilate and the chief priests, recorded by John (19: 21 ), is evidently apocryphal, as Pilate certainly was not present, and it may be doubted that the chief priests were there either.
It would seem to be of great importance to know who were witnesses to that awful scene of a dying God; but the accounts are too variant and contradictory to satisfy a just interest. All the recorders speak of passers-by, soldiers, chief priests, scribes and elders of the Jews, and John makes Pilate present. That no Jews were or could be present is asserted by scholars versed in Jewish customs and tradition. This holy gentry would not so much as enter into the judgment hall of Pilate to press their accusations against Jesus "lest they should be defiled" (John 17: 28 ); much less would they defile their pure selves by witnessing the murder they had procured, even if permitted to do So.
Probably only the Roman soldiery was present, with chance passers-by and some of the pagan populace. The three synoptists speak of "the centurion" and his remarkable testimony. A centurion was an important officer, commander of one hundred men, a captain of a company of soldiers. There were but four soldiers (John 19: 23 ) present, and it is hardly likely that a company commander was sent in charge of a corporal's squad of four men to execute two thieves and one Christ.
The friends and followers of Jesus who witnessed the fatal scene deserve our attention more; but we can never know who they were. John, who claims to have been on the spot, says that only "there stood by the cross of Jesus" three Marys, "his mother, and his mother's sister [both oddly named Mary], and Mary Magdalene" (John 19: 25 ); and that Jesus, pointing to John, said: "Woman, behold thy son" (19: 26, 27 ). But John was not present, according to the silence of all the other gospel truth-bearers. Matthew, who was not there, bears record of "many women ... which followed Jesus from Galilee: ... Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses [he does not call her the mother, too, of Jesus] -- and the mother of Zebedee's children" (Matt. 27: 55, 56 ). Mark gives the list differently: "Among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome, and many other women" (Mark 15: 40, 41 ). Both Matthew and Mark declare that this whole troupe of women "were there beholding afar off," "looking on from afar" -- therefore not "standing by the cross" at all, as John says they were. And Luke too testifies that not only "the women that followed him from Galilee" but also "all his acquaintance" with them "stood afar off, beholding these things" (Luke 23: 49 ). How the ladies could have seen these things from afar is not clear, for we are assured by the Holy Ghost, through three historians of the scene, that during the whole time that Jesus hung on the cross "from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour" (Matt. 27: 45; Mark 15: 33; Luke 23: 44 ); though John, who was present throughout, didn't see the darkness and eclipse, nor any of the other wonders to be noted.
John alone of the delectable Twelve was present at the final tragedy, according to him; all the disciples (himself included) at Gethsemane "forsook him and fled" (Matt. 26: 56; Mark 14: 50 ); all except Judas, who maybe, went and hanged himself. One traitor and eleven craven cowards were the holy apostles of the Son of Yahveh. A God might have foreknown their mean characters and have chosen honest and loyal men for his suite.
THE INCIDENTS AT THE CRUCIFIXION
What occurred at and during this transcendent scene of the Passion of a dying God, which should be recorded by inerrant inspiration, is peddled with the same sort of pettifogging tell- tale which characterizes all inspired narrative.
After arriving at the place of crucifixion, say Matthew and Mark, and before Jesus was put upon the cross, he was offered something to drink, but what is not certain. Matthew says: "They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall" (27: 34 ); Mark says: "They gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh" (15: 23 ); and both state that he would not accept it. But it was after the Crucifixion, says Luke, that the soldiers "mocked him. ... offering him vinegar" (23: 36 ), which was apparently refused. John, who claims to have been there, details the whole scene to the end, and then records: "After this, Jesus ... saith, I thirst. ... And they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth" (19: 28, 29 ), and Jesus "received the vinegar" (19: 30 ), bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
Two "thieves," say Matthew (27: 38 ) and Mark (15: 27 ), were crucified with Jesus; Luke says they were simply "malefactors" (23: 32 ); John does not know what their offence was, and to him they were merely "two other" (19: 18 ). Both of Matthew's "thieves" joined with the chief priests, scribes, and elders in "mocking" Jesus, and "cast the same in his teeth" (27: 44 ), and neither of them repented, or was invited to paradise; and Mark agrees that both "they that were crucified with him reviled him" (15: 32 ), however unseemly it may be for those in the agony of death to engage in reproaching a fellow sufferer. But that there is honor even among dying thieves is admitted by Luke, who records that but "one of the malefactors ... railed on him," while "the other answering rebuked" the railer (23: 39, 40 ), and "this other" did not repent of "reviling Jesus," for he had not reviled him; but he did say: "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom" (23: 42 ) -- this dying thief being thus made to show a familiarity with the esoteric teachings of Jesus which even his own disciples did not at the time comprehend. But John, who was at the very foot of the cross, recorded no reviling or mocking, and the thieves, according to him, died like gentlemen, without a word.
As tangled a bit is next related regarding the casting of lots over the garments of the Crucified. The synoptists relate that all the clothing was raffled: "They parted his garments, casting lots" (Matt. 27: 35; Mark 15: 24; Luke 23: 34 ). But John, who was present, says that the lots were cast only for the seamless coat, the other things being divided by choice: "Then the soldiers ... took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam. ... They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lot's for it, whose it shall be" (19: 23, 24 ); and John puts into the mouth of the Roman soldiers ancient Davidic complaints as pretended Hebrew prophecy being fulfilled by themselves -- "... whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture did they cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did" (19: 24 ).
Matthew records that "about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" (27: 46 ), these Hebrew words being rendered as meaning: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Mark quotes the same expiring cry, but makes the first two words the Aramaic "Eloi, eloi" (15: 34 ); though neither Luke nor John records them in either form. But sabachthani means, not "forsaken me," but sacrificed me. The words are quoted from one of the Psalms (22: 1 ), and it seems strange that one dying in the agony of the cross should for his dying words quote ancient poetry. However, the quotation leads into other oddities of inspiration. Matthew says that "some of them that stood there," hearing the words, said, "This man calleth for Elias" (27: 47 ); one of them ran and got a vinegar-soaked sponge "and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him" (27: 48, 49 ). But, according to Mark; it was the same man who gave the vinegar who made the remark: "And one ran and filled a sponge ... and gave him to drink, saying, Let alone; let us see whether Elias will come to take him down" (15: 36 ). This despairing cry, "My God, why hast thou forsaken [sacrificed] me?" at the hour of death, when the oft-proclaimed Kingdom of David, or the Messianic program for the Kingdom of God, seemed utterly collapsed, proves of itself that the dying Christ was conscious that he was not God, but a poor, disillusioned dying man, forsaken, sacrificed, by Yahveh, God of Israel.
It is odd that anyone, Jew or gentile, should have mistaken the Hebrew word eli ("my God") for a call for Elijah, of which Elias is the Greek form. As pronounced by Jesus, the word sounded 'lay-lee"; the name of Elijah in Hebrew is pronounced "eh-lee-yah- hoo" (meaning "Yahveh is God"). The two words could not have been mistaken by the Jews, and to the pagan gentiles they would have been meaningless; they knew nothing about Elijah. Jews hearing it would hardly have mistaken the words of the Psalm 22 for a cry to the precursor of the Messianic kingdom -- a mistake upon which their raillery is made to depend.
One of the extraordinary episodes, related by John only, is that after Jesus "was dead already" (19: 33 ), "one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water" (19: 34 ). It is strange that none of the other wonder- mongers relates this physiological curiosity. The deed was done after the soldiers, by leave of Pilate (whom John records as taking an incredible holiday to attend the Crucifixion), had found that Jesus was already dead (19: 31-34 ), and of course Pilate, being there, knew that Jesus was dead after but three (or six) hours on the cross. But Mark denies that Pilate was at the crucifixion or knew that Jesus was dead; for "now when the even was come," Joseph of Arimathaea "went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph" (Mark 15: 42-45 ). So Pilate was at home, in the palace in Jerusalem, and knew nothing about Jesus' being so soon dead (crucifixion being a lingering death lasting usually several days). This suffices for this batch of old wives' tales", peddled as gospel truth.
THE LAST WORDS
Matthew and Mark relate not a word said by Jesus on the cross except the expiring cry at the ninth hour, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani" (a quotation from David; Ps. 22: 1 ), meaning "My God, my God, why hast thou sacrificed me?" Luke (23: 43 ) tells of a single remark to one of the thieves, "To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise" (but Jesus, after his death, went, not to paradise, but to hell; Acts 2: 31; 1 Pet. 3: 19; cf. the Apostles' Creed); and then, at the ninth hour, the expiring cry, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" (23: 46 ). John relates only one remark by Jesus to his mother, concerning John, "Woman, behold thy son!" and one to the disciple, "Behold thy mother!" and "I thirst" (19: 26-28 ). At the end Jesus merely said: "It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost" (19: 30 ), without either of the expiring cries. Surely this is unsatisfactory for such a scene.
THE WONDERS AT DEATH
Wonderful miracles attended the death of a God on a cross, as related by one or another of the reporters.
Matthew (27: 45 ), Mark (15: 33 ), and Luke (23: 44 ) say that "from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour," when, with or without the expiring cry, Jesus, "gave up the ghost." But John, who was there, and saw, and "saith true, that ye might believe," did not see the darkness, nor other wonderful phenomena. Matthew gives a whole catalogue of wonders, which is found in no other history of that period:
"And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many." (Matt. 27: 51-53 )
How there could have been "saints" already dead and buried ages before the Holy Church set up its saint-mill is not clear; and what they did between the "ninth hour," when they "arose," and three (or one and a half) days later, when they "came out of their graves after his resurrection," is not revealed. Maybe, as Ingersoll suggests, "they were polite enough to sit in their open graves and wait for Christ to rise first." But Mark does not credit these ghosts, nor the earthquake, any more than I do, for he simply says (15: 38 ) the "veil of the temple was rent in twain," which is also all that Luke says (23: 45 ); and John, who alone was there to see, discredits every word of the three others, for he says nothing of all these wonders.
These inspired writers are also in hopeless conflict as to what the Roman centurion said when Jesus "gave up the ghost." Matthew and Mark say that, when those present "saw the earthquake," the centurion said: "Truly this was the Son of God" -- thus familiar with the Jewish Messianic doctrine and confessing the Christian claim that Jesus was the Messiah! But Luke is not so ambitious for a confession of Christian faith from the pagan Roman, and declares that he simply said: "Certainly this was a righteous man." John, at the foot of the cross, did not hear any remark from the centurion, or did not record it.
THE BURIAL SCENE
We may bow with such reverence as the palpable sham of the whole affair permits while we look for a moment upon the burial of a crucified and dead God.
Matthew records that when even was come, a rich disciple of Jesus, one Joseph of Arimathea, "went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus" (27: 58 ). Mark tells how Joseph went about the request; he "went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus (15: 43 ); but not so boldly, says John -- "but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate" (19: 38 ). When Joseph had got the body of Jesus by Pilate's order, says Matthew, "he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock" (27: 59, 60 ). Mark relates that Joseph first went and "bought fine linen" (15: 46 ), which, however, can hardly be true; for Joseph was a Jew and a member of the Cyanhydrin, and "the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath" (15: 42 ); therefore it was the sabbath, which began at "even"; and dry goods could neither be bought nor sold, nor would "an honorable counsellor" (15: 43 ), as Joseph was, have violated the holy law by such an act, the penalty for which was stoning to death. Howbeit, having somehow the fine linen, Joseph took Jesus down from the cross, wrapped the body in the linen, "and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock" (15: 46 ). But this evidently was not Joseph's "own new tomb" of Matthew; Mark who wrote first, does not mention this important circumstance; and John makes it positive that it was just a vacant tomb that happened to be handy for temporary use. John makes Nicodemus, too, a party to the burial: "And there came also Nicodemus. ... Then took they the body of Jesus. ... Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand" (19: 39-42 ). So it was just an empty burial place near by, and Jesus was temporarily laid in it "therefore because" of the holiday, "for the sepulchre was nigh at hand." All this excludes totally the notion that this was Joseph's "own new tomb."
Joseph then, all alone, says Matthew, "rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed" (27: 60 ), leaving two Marys "sitting over against the sepulchre" (27: 61; Mark 15: 46, 47 ). But according to Luke, Joseph, though alone, rolled no stone against the door, but simply laid the body in (23: 53 ) and went away, and he left no women there watching. For, after Joseph was gone away, "the women ... followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid" (23: 55 ), showing there was no stone closing the sepulchre, which is further proved by the statement that the women "returned and prepared spices and ointments" (23: 56 ) to anoint or embalm the body. There was no embalmment, according to Matthew and Mark, as we have seen; and Luke's women saw none, for they viewed the body and went away to prepare to embalm it. But John avers that the body of Jesus was embalmed before burial, by Joseph and Nicodemus, and in very exuberant superfluity. For Nicodemus brought along "a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight" (19: 39 ) -- enough to embalm an elephant. "Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices as the manner of the Jews is to bury" (19: 40 ). Then they buried it, but are not recorded to have rolled any stone before the sepulchre, though all four evangelists speak of the stone's being rolled away on the morning of the resurrection.
The women who, Luke says, came up after Joseph had left, "saw how his body was laid" in the open sepulchre; they then returned home "and prepared spices and ointments" to embalm the body, and then they "rested the sabbath day" (Luke 23: 56 ); thus they had obtained and prepared the materials before the sabbath. But Mark has it otherwise, that "when the sabbath was past," the women "had bought" (the Revised Version honestly reads "bought") the materials "that they might come and anoint him" (Mark 16: 1 ); thus not buying the materials until after the sabbath.
Matthew, the most incorrigible wonder-monger of them all, is the only one to record an episode which must be noticed, as it is one of his most palpable fabrications. According to Matthew, Jesus was crucified and buried on the "day of preparation" for the sabbath, that is, on Friday afternoon. Then he begins to entangle himself:
"Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation [that is, on the sabbath day], the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate [the most punctilious of the Jews going on their holy day to their pagan enemy, Pilate, to attend to business in utter defiance of their holy law], Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again" (Matt. 27: 62, 63 ) -- showing the priests to be more familiar with the resurrection doctrine of Jesus than his own disciples, "For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead" (John, 2, 9 ). And the sanhedrim visitors proceeded: "Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, 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" (Matt. 27: 64 ) -- an admission that they had erred in their accusations and in procuring the death of "this deceiver." In reply, "Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch" (27: 65, 66 ); these rigorous sticklers for the law forbidding work on the sabbath here violating it by undertaking a big job of masonry.
This story is evidently written in with a purpose, that expressed by the Jews, of anticipating the claim of false resurrection, and for the further purpose of lending greater credibility to the ensuing story of the resurrection.
Immediately following, Matthew begins the scene for which he has thus set the stage. "In the end of the sabbath [that is, Saturday at sundown, or as the verse erroneously continues] as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week [therefore Sunday morning], came [the two Marys] to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. ... And the angel answered and said unto the women ... He is not here: for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay" (28: 1, 2, 5, 6 ).
Here was the grave sealed, and an armed Roman guard standing sentinel before it; the angel descended from heaven before the eyes of soldiers and women, and in their presence, breaking the seal, rolled away the stone; and, lo! "He is not here: for he has risen."
When and how did the risen Lord rise and with his physical body get out of the grave? It was sealed and guarded by Roman soldiers, and when opened before witnesses, it was empty. Matthew is caught in his own trap; his attempt to create the air of credibility results in a dilemma of total incredibility. Either the body of Jesus Christ was never put into that grave -- or it was "stolen away" before the grave was sealed and the sentinels posted. Which? Jesus was put into the grave Friday about sunset; the sepulchre was not sealed and the armed watch set until some time "the next day that followed" (Matt. 27: 62, 66 ). Was Jesus simply in a swoon from those three hours on the cross? Or was he really dead, and put into the tomb by his friend and disciple Joseph, Friday evening? and did "his disciples come by night [that Friday night] and steal him away" before the watch was set on the sabbath, and then "say unto the people, He is risen from the dead," just as the chief priests and Pharisees suspected?
Matthew pursues his phantom. He relates that when the women and angel left the sepulchre, "Some of the watch came into the city" and related the affair to the chief priests; the latter summoned the council (sanhedrim) and talked the problem over; then "they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught" (Matt. 28: 11-15 ). What could be more preposterous? Soldiers posted for three days leaving their posts before their time was up -- a capital offence; then taking a bribe to admit that they slept on post -- for which summary death was the unescapable penalty; then learning that the seal was broken and the great stone rolled away right under their noses (whether asleep or not, the commotion would have waked them); then, most improbable of all, lyingly confessing and trusting to these Jewish murderers of the Christ to "persuade" Pilate, who hated them, to "be easy" on the recreant soldiers of the guard who failed in the single purpose of their posting. Inspiration surely is childish at times.
Jesus was buried Friday evening; the Jewish sabbath, our Saturday, passed, and the next morning, lo, "He is risen from the dead"! Jesus was thus in the grave, if at all, two nights and one day at most, discrediting his own prophecy in which he appealed to the similitude of poor old Jonah: "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly [so it was a whale after all, not simply a "great fish"]; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matt. 12: 40 ). Jonah was a poor prototype for a God, and the prophecy of three days and three nights was not fulfilled.
The resurrection of Jesus took place in the dead of night; no human being was eyewitness to it. Only an empty borrowed grave -- and some immense contradictions -- vouch for it. Matthew records the time and persons thus:
"In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre." (Matt. 28: 1 )
Mark states thus:
"And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun." (Mark 16: 1, 2 )
"Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they [i.e., the women which came with him from Galilee; 23: 55] came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them." (Luke 24: 1 )
John's record is this:
"The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre." (John 2: 1 )
The conflicts here are very apparent, upon seemingly trifling points; but nothing is trifling concerning inspired truths of the event surpassing everything else in history, human or divine. The time varies: Matthew, "as it began to dawn toward the day"; Mark, "very early in the morning at the rising of the sun"; Luke, "very early in the morning"; John, "when it was yet dark." Now, it could not be sunrise and dark at the same time.
The writer of the Gospel According to Matthew was evidently not a Jew. He says that the women went to the sepulchre "in the end of the sabbath" and "as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week" (28: 1 ), and they found that Jesus had already risen. If this be true, then the resurrection took place, not on "the first day of the week," as Mark asserts (16: 9 ), but on the last day of the week, the sabbath. The Jewish day ended, and another began, at sunset, a method of computation of which no Jew has ever been ignorant "even unto this day." No sabbath with the Jews ever ended "as it began to dawn toward" the first day of the week; the sabbath ended at the previous sunset. The writers both of Matthew and of Mark evidently supposed that the Jewish day began at dawn or sunrise; but the "first day of the week" and every other began in the evening, at sunset of the preceding day. The night preceding the morning visit to the tomb belonged, not to the seventh day, but to the first.
The conflict continues as to the persons who came, at sunrise or by dark: Matthew, two persons, "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary"; Mark, three persons, "Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, and Salome"; Luke, a number of persons, "the women ... which came with him from Galilee, ... and certain others with them"; John, one person, "Mary Magdalene," alone; John says nothing about spices and anointing; and it may be wondered how they could expect to anoint a body already buried three days, sealed in a grave with a great stone before the door, and with an armed Roman guard specially posted to prevent tampering.
Now we shall see if we can disentangle what happened when one, two, three, or a number of persons came to the sepulchre at sunrise, or by dark:
Matthew asserts that this is what happened:
"And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, ... go quickly, and tell his disciples." (Matt. 28: 2-7 )
Mark asserts that this happened:
"And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted." (Mark 16: 4, 5 )
Luke asserts that this happened:
"And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments." (Luke 24: 2-4 )
John bears true record that these totally different and quite impossible things happened:
"The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene ... unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple [John], whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre. ... Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre [John arriving first]. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie. ... Then went in also that other disciple, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again unto their own home. But Mary [Magdalene] stood without ... weeping: and ... stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, And seeth two angels in white, sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain." (John 2: 1-12 )
The contradictions here are very glaring, and are of the highest importance. Matthew avers that, after the two Marys arrived at the sepulchre, a lightning-faced angel descended before their eyes, accompanied by an earthquake, and rolled away the stone and sat on it outside the sepulchre. This second "great earthquake," which none of the others saw or felt or mention, leaves the armed Roman guard stretched out like dead men; the angel speaks to the scared women; neither of Matthew's two women enters the sepulchre; but the angel announces the resurrection and sends them away to tell the news. Mark's three women see that the stone is already rolled away, and they enter into the sepulchre and find one young man sitting on the right side. Luke's whole trompe of women find the stone removed, and they all enter into the sepulchre, and find two men standing by. John, who was there himself after Mary Magdalene called him, states that Mary Magdalene went alone to the sepulchre, and found the stone taken away; but no angel of Yahveh, nor one young man sitting, nor two men standing by are mentioned. Mary Magdalene calls Peter and John, and they find the sepulchre empty except for the grave-clothes. When Peter and John had found nothing and gone home, then the Magdalene looked in and saw two angels, one at each end of the place where the body had been. But none of these saw a guard of keepers scared by a great earthquake. Mark (16: 5 ) and Luke (24: 5 ) say that it was the women who were affrighted; Mark says that "they went out quickly, and fled" (16: 8 ); according to Luke, they "bowed down their faces to the earth" (24: 5 ).
One of the most remarkable misstatements is that of John (2: 9 ): "For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead." This denies the most insistent teaching of Jesus throughout his career of preaching, and contradicts numerous explicit declarations of his coming resurrection made to these same disciples. "And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again" (Matt. 2: 17-19; cf. Mark 8: 31; 9: 31; 10: 34; Luke 18: 31-33; 24: 46 ). Moreover, John's statement is a gross anachronism; there could not have been any scripture about the resurrection; there was only the oral teaching of Jesus within the few months of his nomadic association with his disciples. The reference to "scripture" betrays the fact that the Gospel According to John was written many years later by some forger who probably had Mark's book of Christ- tales before him.
BREAKING THE RESURRECTION NEWS
The happenings immediately after the arrival at the sepulchre of the one, two, or three women, or the troupe of women, and their finding an angel sitting outside on the stone, or one young man sittings or two men standing by, or none of these at all, are thus related by the four inspired recorders:
Matthew tells this story, abbreviated but exact:
"The angel ... said unto the women, Fear not ye: ... for he is risen, as he said. ... Go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him. ... And they departed quickly, and did run to bring his disciples word." (Matt. 28: 5-8 )
Mark abbreviated but exact, tells this story: the young men sitting on the right side said:
"Be not affrighted. ... He is risen. ... But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him. ... And they went out quickly, and fled; ... neither said any thing to any man; for they were afraid." (Mark 16: 6-8 )
Luke abbreviated but exact, tells a different story thus: the two men standing by said to the several women, who were "Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them" (24: 10 ):
"Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you. ... And they remembered, ... And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. ... Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass." (Luke 24: 5-12 )
John, abbreviated but exact, tells a very different story: Peter and John, as above related, ran together to the sepulchre after Mary Magdalene had told them, and found the linen clothes, and both went home. Then Mary went into the sepulchre, and the two angels asked her: "Woman, why weepest thou?" (John 2: 13 ) The first words of greeting are differently recorded. Matthew's angel announces the resurrection as he sits outside on the stone, and sends the two women to tell the disciples, adding that Jesus had gone ahead into Galilee, where he would see them; and the women ran to bring the disciples word. Mark has his young man, sitting inside, make the announcement, and direct the three women to go tell the disciples; but being afraid they told no man. Luke says his two men, standing by, told the troupe of women that Jesus was risen, and they went, without being instructed and told all the disciples; and Peter alone went and looked in, did not enter the sepulchre, and went away wondering. John says that Mary Magdalene alone went to the sepulchre, found it empty and saw no one, and then went and told him and Peter, and both went running, looked in, entered, and found only the linen clothes and saw no one, and went home. Then it was that Mary Magdalene a second time looked in, and saw two angels, who spoke to her, asking what she sought. But they did not announce the resurrection, for the reason which will next appear.
POST-RESURRECTION APPEARANCES OF JESUS
This brings us to the appearances of the Lord after his resurrection to his disciples and other acquaintances.
THE FIRST APPEARANCE
Matthew, after stating that "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary" left the sepulchre at the behest of the angel to go to tell the disciples that Jesus had gone to Galilee, relates the first appearance thus:
"And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me." (Matt. 28: 9, 10 )
Mark, after telling how "Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome" had "fled from the sepulchre," and told no one, "for they were afraid," gives this account:
"Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene. ... And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. And they ... believed not." (Mark 16: 9-11 )
Luke, after relating how "Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them" had returned from the sepulchre and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest, and how Peter had then run to the sepulchre alone and seen only the grave-clothes laid by, relates the first appearance very differently, thus:
"And, behold, two of them [disciples] went that same day to a village called Emmaus. ... And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. ... Then he said unto them, O fools," etc. "And he went in to tarry with them. ... And he hid from their sight." (Luke 24: 13-15, 25, 29, 31 )
John, after telling of Mary Magdalene's going alone to the sepulchre, and finding the body gone but seeing no one, and of her telling Peter and John, who went and found nothing but the grave- clothes, and saw no one and returned home, and of Mary's seeing two angels sitting where the body had lain, and their asking her, "Woman, why weepest thou?" then declares:
"And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. ... Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not. ... Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord." (John 2: 14, 17, 18 )
Thus we have the four conflicting accounts. Matthew says that Jesus first appeared to the two women as they went to tell the disciples, and they at once recognized him; Mark says that he first appeared to one woman, Mary Magdalene, early the first day; Luke says that Jesus first appeared to the two disciples as they went to Emmaus; John says that Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene by the sepulchre, as she turned from speaking with the two angels, and that she did not recognize him. And she said that Jesus forbade her to touch him, "for I am not yet ascended"; Matthew says that his two Marys "came and held him by the feet."
THE SECOND APPEARANCE
The second appearance is as diversely narrated. Matthew, after saying that Jesus had told the two Marys to tell his disciples to meet him in Galilee, relates the second appearance was thus:
"Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. ... And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, ... And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matt. 28: 16, 18, 20 )
Mark, after telling how Jesus "appeared first to Mary Magdalene," on the first day, tells of the second appearance thus:
"After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country." (Mark 16: 12 )
Luke, after relating how Jesus first appeared to the two on their way to Emmaus, and how he went with them, and took supper with them, says:
"And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them. ... And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted and supposed that they had seen a spirit. ... He shewed them his hands and his feet," and asked for meat, and he ate broiled fish and honeycomb before them, and spoke with them at length. (Luke 24: 33, 36, 37, 40, et seq.)
John, after relating how Jesus had first appeared early on the resurrection day to Mary Magdalene alone at the sepulchre, says of the second appearance:
"Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in their midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. ... Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord." (John 2: 19, 20 )
The contradictions as to the second appearance are obvious. Matthew says that it was to the Eleven on a mountain in Galilee, "where Jesus had appointed them." But neither Jesus nor the Eleven went into Galilee; for Luke says that at Jerusalem on the same resurrection day Jesus suddenly appeared out of empty space "and stood in the midst of them," and said: "Peace be unto you," but that "they were terrified and affrighted." He had supper with them; then "he led them out as far as Bethany" and said unto the Eleven: "Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem; " and as he spoke, "he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven" (Luke 24: 33-51 ). Mark says that the second appearance was "in another form" (what form he does not say) "to two of them," as they walked in the country. Luke says that it was in Jerusalem, unto the Eleven "and them that were with them," and greatly terrified them all. John says that it was on the evening of the resurrection day, in a closed room; and instead of being terrified, the disciples "were glad when they saw the Lord."
There were other appearances, not recorded by all the gospel historians, the accounts of which are equally conflicting. Matthew relates only the two appearances already credited to him. Mark, after telling of the second appearance, to the two walking in the country, tells of a third:
"Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief." (Mark 16: 14 )
Luke is satisfied with his two, which differ entirely from Matthew's two, as we have seen. John, after his account of the second appearance, to the disciples in the closed room, on which occasion he says that Thomas Didymus was not present, and after stating that Thomas, when he heard about it, would not believe, then tells of a third appearance, at which Thomas was convinced:
"And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you." (John 2: 26 )
Thus we see that Matthew and Luke relate only two appearances, and, if we believe Luke, there were no more; Mark and John relate three. All the accounts differ about time, place, persons, and other circumstances; each account renders impossible the others.
John relates a fourth appearance, which he calls the third, to the disciples:
"After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself. ... This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead." (John 21: 1, 14 )
On this occasion the disciples were fishing, and had caught nothing. Jesus told them to throw their net on the other side of the boat, and they landed 153 "great fishes"; "and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken" (21: 11 ). When they landed, they saw a fire of coals, with fish already broiling thereon, with bread, and they all had breakfast alfresco.
SUNDAY OTHER APPEARANCES
This would seem to complete the very contradictory relations of the appearances of the Crucified after the resurrection. But the end is not yet; other witnesses say there were at least forty, and perhaps more, appearances. We call the anonymous author of the Acts of the Apostles, reputed to be Luke, who has already, and quite differently, testified in his gospel. In Acts 1: 1, 2, this witness now testifies that Jesus, before "the day in which he was taken up," gave commandments to the apostles,
"To whom also he shewed himself alive, being seen of them forty days." (Acts 1: 3 )
There would be, then, at least forty several appearances to the apostles, on forty several days after the resurrection.
But the chronicler of the Acts quotes Peter 'not only as throwing doubt on the means of Jesus' death, asserting that he was "hanged on a tree" (Acts 10: 39 ), but further saying:
"Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead." (Acts 10: 40, 41 )
This would seem to indicate only one appearance, to the Eleven only; and it discounts the repeated appearances to the one, two, or many women. It limits the appearance to the little apostolic band, by declaring that Jesus showed himself "not to all the people." One would think that the sole proof of so tremendous an issue as the resurrection of a God from the death of a man would not be left to a crew of deserting cowards and proved liars, but that the risen God would at once have shown himself to Pilate, to the sanhedrim, "to all the people," as openly at least as the dead saints who "came out of their graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many" (Matt. 27: 53 ); though, it is true, we have only Matthew's word for this.
The inspired historian of Acts a little later quotes Paul on the subject, and in quite different tenor:
"But God raised him up from the dead: And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people." (Acts 13: 30, 31 )
Thus for many days, and to a whole rabble of Galilean peasants the Conqueror of Death paraded himself in private; but no single intelligent person, chief priest of the Jews, Roman ruler of Jerusalem, or official historian of the province, was advised of it, or given an opportunity to make a credible record of the greatest wonder of the world. What negligence! Instead of fishermen's tales of this transcendent event we should have accredited official history.
But with the lapse of time wonders grow, and Paul writing to the Corinthians, lately pagans, adds prodigiously to the throng of witnesses for the verity of his risen Lord. After telling of the death and burial of the Christ, he adds:
"He rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once. ... After that he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time." (1 Cor. 15: 4-8 )
This is a most extraordinary rigmarole of falsities and impossibilities -- if there is a word of truth in the four gospels; for it contradicts even all the gospel contradictions on the subject. Paul begins with a blunder: Jesus rose on the third day "according to the scriptures." There were no scriptures of the New Testament at that time; the gospels were not written until some fifty or one hundred and fifty years later, and were not in existence when the Epistles of Paul and the others were written. The Old Testament never once predicts or mentions the resurrection.
Paul next says that the first appearance of Jesus after his resurrection was to Peter (Cephas). This contradicts flatly every gospel recorder, every one of whom declares, though diversely, that the first appearance was to Mary Magdalene, alone or with other women. Next Paul says that Jesus was "seen ... of the Twelve." But there were no Twelve at the time; Judas had deserted and was dead, and his successor was not chosen until some time after the "ascension," when one Matthias was elected (Acts 1: 23-26 ). Paul evidently knew nothing about Judas and his betrayal of the Christ. After that, declares Paul, Jesus was seen by over five hundred witnesses at once. This general appearance is not only entirely unknown to the evangelists, but contradicts them all, particularly Peter's declaration that Jesus appeared only "unto us who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead" (Acts 10: 41 ); therefore to the Eleven only. In the days of Jesus there could have been no "five hundred brethren"; shortly after the ascension, when all the "brethren" were gathered to hear Peter, it is recorded that "the number of the names together were about one hundred and twenty" (Acts 1: 15 ); and this number is considered exaggerated.
James, own brother of Jesus, nowhere makes claim to have seen him after the resurrection; and only Paul vouches for his own peculiar vision, "as of one born out of due time." Both the last- cited witnesses contradict the contradictory histories of the four gospel writers, quoted above, and leave the whole matter of post- mortem and pre-ascension appearances much more confused and doubtful than even the gospels leave it. Not only are all these alleged appearances contradictory and mutually destructive, and thus evident fabricated; they also destroy the possibility of the truth of the contradictorily related, fabled ascension.
Matthew, the most prolific wonder-teller, knew nothing of an "ascension", and there was none if we stop with him, for he does not mention it. On the contrary, in the last verse of his gospel Jesus assures his hearers that he was going to stay with them -- "I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Matt. 28: 20 ).
Mark, after relating the third appearance, to the Eleven as they sat at meat, evidently in a room in a house, declares:
"So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached." (Mark 16: 19, 20 )
Luke, after relating the second and last appearance, to the Eleven in Jerusalem, when Jesus ate the broiled fish and honey- comb, says:
"And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven." (Luke 24: 50, 51 )
John, like Matthew, knows nothing, or says nothing, of an ascension.
We have recourse now to our new and fifth witness, the author of the Acts of the Apostles. After asserting that Jesus remained on earth with the apostles and was "seen of them forty days," "being assembled together with them" on the Mount of Olives, speaking with them, the writer says:
"And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. ... Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet." (Acts 1: 9, 12 )
The evidence for the ascension is quite as conflicting, both as to time and place, as all the rest which we have examined. Matthew and John record no ascension at all. The resurrection is laid by all on the first day of the week. As to the time of the ascension, Mark is indefinite; he makes the first appearance of Jesus on the same first day; and says and "after that" he made the second appearance, and "afterward" the third. This third appearance was indoors, at a meal-time, with the Eleven, and probably in Jerusalem, their headquarters; and then and there "the Lord was received up," right through the roof of the house.
Luke, in his gospel, lays the time of the resurrection day, immediately after the second and last appearance, at a meal with the eleven in Jerusalem, and asserts that, when the meal was ended, Jesus led them out as far as Bethany, and there "was separated from them and carried up into heaven," from the open country side. But in the Acts Luke tells a different story: he explicitly says that the time was after forty days and at least forty appearances, and that the place was "the mount called Olivet." As stated, John does not record any ascension; but he relates the second appearance of Jesus, to the eleven on the evening of the resurrection day, and says that "after eight days" Jesus again appeared to them when Thomas Didymus was also present; so that, according to John, the ascension, if there was one, must have been at least eight days after the resurrection; and longer, for John records that "after these things Jesus shewed himself again to his disciples at the sea of Tiberias," on the occasion of the miraculous fishing. And the ascension could not have occurred far forty days after the resurrection, if Peter is believed; for he says that Jesus was "seen of them forty days" (Acts 1: 3 ). This destroys every gospel tale of the ascension.
NOBODY BELIEVED THE "IDLE TALES"
In concluding our review, we may pause for a moment and satisfy a natural curiosity, as well as adduce important evidence, by inquiring what effect all these "miracles and wonders and signs" had upon the loyal disciples and close associates of Jesus. They were with him throughout his career, and Jesus said to them: "Ye are witnesses of these things." Jesus also gave them the fair and gentle admonition, "He that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16: 16 ). This inquiry affords pertinent evidence for one who, twenty centuries after -- when "seeing is believing" -- not having seen these things himself, and having them only on the credit of the four inspired biographies and the Acts, may be so bold as not to believe them.
Matthew guards a discreet silence, although be says (28: 17 ) that when Jesus met his disciples in Galilee, "some doubted."
Mark, after saying that Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene, who told the others, says:
"And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, And they went and told it unto the residue; neither believed they them." (Mark 16: 11-13 )
Luke, after relating that his group of women returned from the sepulchre and told the apostles of the resurrection, says:
"And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not." (Luke, 24: 11 )
John quotes Jesus as saying: "Ye also have seen me, and believe not"; and John tells the story of "doubting Thomas," who said: "Show me, or I will not believe."
A PROPHET WITHOUT HONOR
A halo of pathos surrounds, for credulous devotees of the Christ, his plaintive words, which have become proverbial: "A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country, and in his own house" (Matt. 13: 57; Mark 6: 4; Luke 4: 24; John 4: 44 ).
Even the little episode of the utterance of this just reproach cannot be related by the truth-inspired gospel biographers without contradictions which entirely destroy its force and discredit its authenticity. The three synoptists say that Jesus uttered the rebuke to the Galileans because of their rejection of him in his home country; John says that it was directed at the Judeans because they rejected him, and that the Galileans accepted him. Jesus and the Twelve began the first preaching tour in Judea (Matt. 11: 1 ); later Jesus, with them, "departed thence ... and was come into his own country," Galilee (Matt. 13: 53, 54 ). His neighbors scoffed at "the carpenter's son," saying: "Whence then hath this man these things?" (Matt. 13: 55, 56 ) and "they were offended in him" (13: 57 ). Upon this provocation Jesus spoke his condemnation of the Galileans.
John reverses the situation. According to him, Jesus "left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee" (John 4: 3 ); he passed through Samaria, and held converse with the much-married "woman of Samaria" at the well of Sychar; then "after two days he departed thence, and went into Galilee. For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honor in his own country. Then when he was come into Galilee, the Galilaeans received him, having seen all the things that he did at Jerusalem" (John 4: 43-45 ).
The synoptists thus say that Jesus was without honor in Galilee; John says that he was without honor in Judea, and for that reason left there and went into Galilee. According to the synoptists the Galileans rejected him; John says "the Galileans received him"; according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Galilee was "his own country"; according to John, Judea was "his own country."
Thus Christendom's Jewish prophet is stripped of honor, not only in "his own country," which honored him not, but in the credulous Christian world, which has dishonored itself by believing -- and by murdering and martyring millions who would not believe -- these childish, contradictory tales of the Christ.
This summary review of the reputed life and acts of Jesus of Nazareth, as set forth in the only human documents in which they are with any pretense of inspiration recorded, has more than abundantly shown, to even the most reverently credulous, the degree of inspired truth in the gospel stories. The common asseveration of veracity, "true as the gospel," has lost force as a convincing assurance. "On my word of honor" is to be recommended as a more persuasive formula for men of truth and honor.
It is sad perhaps to discover that the long-cherished gospels are totally wanting in that "harmony" which has long been regarded as their most potent assurance of truth. But the simple process of attentively comparing their records and pointing out their contradictions has stripped them of all pretense of being inspired truth. These gospels prove themselves -- as historical records -- to be clumsy fabrications of impossibilities, palmed off upon an ignorant and credulous populace -- a whole generation and more after the pretended events, by perhaps well-meaning persons, pretending, as Paul admits of himself, by their lies to make the glory of God the more to abound (Rom. 3: 7 ).
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