Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of
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By combining the different statements in the four Gospels, the Acts and the Epistles of Paul and Peter, Christians construct an account of certain events which form the basis of their religion. They believe that Jesus died on the cross; that devout hands took his body down from the cross and laid it in a tomb on the Friday evening; that Jesus rose from the tomb on the following Sunday; that after an earthly sojourn, during which his disciples saw him on several occasions, he ascended to heaven to sit on the right hand of God.
But even a superficial examination of the texts reveals this legend to be artificially composed from contradictory fragments which have not only been compiled in utter disregard of their discrepancies, but, instead of exhibiting a sequence, are really alternative narratives.
The Resurrection of Jesus has to be considered with the Burial which preceded it and the Ascension which followed it. But to appreciate the significance, sequence and unreality of these three inseparable events, some observations are necessary, by way of introduction, on the crucifixion itself.
For the purpose of this book I am not concerned with the nature of the Jewish accusations against Jesus which resulted in his trial before the Sanhedrin; or the legality of the procedure adopted by this tribunal, or his subsequent trial before Pilate, or the episode of Pilate's sending Jesus back to Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee, who happened to be in Jerusalem. This episode is peculiar to Luke (Luke, 23 : 7) only, and its futility does him scant credit. I may, however, mention that the Gospel account of the arrest, trial and condemnation of Jesus swarms with impossibilities, improbabilities and inconsistencies and is quite unintelligible from the juridical point of view.
But, before dealing with the scenes at Calvary, there are one or two matters which require our special attention. First is a comparison by Jesus of his fate with that of Jonah, the Prophet. In response to a demand of the Scribes and Pharisees for a sign, Jesus is reported to have said:
"An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the Prophet Jonas: for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matt., 12: 39-40).
In Luke also this prophecy is referred to in the following terms:
"This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of Jonas, the Prophet. For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites so shall also the Son of man be to this generation" (Luke, 11 : 29-30).
The Biblical version of Jonah can, by no stretch of imagination, be made to support the theory of the death of Jesus on the cross, or his burial as a dead man, or his ultimate resurrection from the dead; for Jonah was cast alive into the sea by his fellow-passengers on board the ship, was swallowed alive by a whale, remained alive in its belly for three days and three nights and was vomited out alive (Jonah, 1 : 9-17; 2 : 1-10).
Jesus, on the contrary, according to Christian belief, was not alive, but dead. Further, Jesus remained in the tomb for twenty-six hours only.
Secondly, only one aspect of the course of events before the Sanhedrin deserves our consideration. The proceedings adopted by this college of elders in this case were quite in conformity with the established law. The procedure against a "Corrupter" who sought to stain the purity of religion, is explained in the Talmud. A judicial ambush is therein provided as an essential part of the examination of criminals. When a man was accused of being a "Corrupter" two witnesses were suborned and concealed behind a partition. The accused was brought into a contiguous room, where he could be heard by these two witnesses without his perceiving them. Two candles were lighted near him in order that it might be satisfactorily proved that the witnesses "saw him" (Renan, History of the Origin of Christianity, 227). He was then made to repeat his blasphemy and urged to retract it. If he persisted he was produced with the two witnesses before the tribunal and on being found guilty was sentenced to death. The narrative of the trial of Jesus corresponded with the procedure described in the Talmud, and we are also told that he was charged with "Corruption," that is, "perverting the nation" (Luke, 23 : 2), and that the chief priest and elders and all the council sought false witnesses against Jesus to put him to death (Matt., 26: 59: Luke, 22 : 66). Their failure to get two reliable witnesses who would support the accusation infuriated them and they tried to get the blind man whom Jesus had cured to testify against him (John, 9 : 21-23).
Speaking of the atrocities of the Sanhedrin on this occasion Dean Milman says that they maltreated all partisans of Jesus with the terrible threats of excommunication, and the timid believers and his relatives, including Mary, the mother of Jesus, were put before this awful tribunal and, when questioned, refrained from saying anything lest their testimony might be used against Jesus; but they, one and all, did refer the tribunal to Jesus himself for information (Milman, History of Christianity, 272). The judges were thus compelled to question Jesus and he then delivered a speech "which was both a memorable speech and a masterpiece of advocacy" (Lawrence, Ecclesiastical History, 201). The reference, no doubt, is to certain passages in John (John, 18 : 20-21).
Jesus, no doubt, was condemned to death. There is no reason to suppose that the Romans did not try to execute the sentence and there is not the least ground to imagine that someone else, who in appearance was like Jesus, was put in place of him on the cross. It does not seem legitimate to doubt the historicity of the fact that Jesus was put on the cross, but exception can be taken to the details in the Gospel account and it can be established that he did not die on the cross.
In itself it is not unlikely that Jesus was scourged, that is to say, subjected to flagella, or the flagra as the evangelists call it, was mocked at and insulted by the soldiers and the on-looking crowd. I will omit details of the cruelty heaped on Jesus. The evangelists give them in great detail in order to move listeners and readers in the deepest possible way. For my purpose it is equally unimportant whether these things happened in Pilate's praetorium or in the house of the high priest. Of course, the Gospels differ.