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in Heaven on Earth [Journey of Jesus to
Kashmir, his preaching to the Lost Tribes of Israel
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> Chapter 10: Crucifixion (of Jesus
Books Section > Jesus in Heaven on Earth [Journey of Jesus to Kashmir, his preaching to the Lost Tribes of Israel and death and burial in Srinagar] by Khwaja Nazir Ahmad > Chapter 10: Crucifixion (of Jesus Christ)
On the way to Golgatha, Jesus was offered a beverage which is described as of vinegar mingled with gall (Matt., 27 : 34) and, according to Mark, mixed with myrrh (Mark, 15: 23), a kind of anaesthetic or narcotic, a stupefying draught which, according to the Rabbinical tradition (Brandt, Die Evangelische Gesch und der ursprung des Christentunis, 177), Jewish women considered it a pious deed to prepare and offer to those about to be executed, the real object being to blunt their susceptibility to pain (Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible, 717). But Matthew gives a different object. It was the fulfilment of a prophecy. The Gospel of Matthew, curiously enough, does not contain a single line which is not a reproduction of some prophecy of the Old Testament. The soldiers cast lots amongst themselves (Matt., 27 : 35) for the division of his garments so that it might be fulfilled:
"They parted my garments among them, and upon my vestures did they cast lots" (Ps., 22 : 18).
The beverage was first given before crucifixion (Matt., 27 : 34; Mark, 15 : 23); the second time, after he was put on the cross, when the soldiers gave him posca (Luke, 23 : 36), and for the third time, on the cry of Jesus: "I thirst" (Matt., 27 : 48; Mark, 15 : 36; John, 19: 28-29). Matthew then refers to the wagging of heads and the scorn of passers-by (Matt., 27 : 39 cf. Ps., 22 : 7) and makes the chief priest say:
"He trusted in God; let Him deliver him now; if He will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God" (Matt., 27 : 43).
The first two evangelists do not tell us that any of the twelve disciples was present at the crucifixion. It appears that they had all forsaken Jesus and fled at the time of his arrest (Matt., 26 : 56; cf. Mark, 14 : 40), and had not followed him, and were too afraid for their own lives to be present at Calvary.
This is one of those very rare incidents in which Matthew could not see the fulfilment of any prophecy of the Old Testament; for the simple reason perhaps that, unlike Jesus, the prophets of yore must have had a few faithful disciples.
To resume the narrative, John does say that Peter and John followed Jesus, but only to the Hall of Judgement and there too only in disguise. Even John does not allege that these two disciples were present anywhere near the cross. The evangelists do mention, however, the presence of several Galilean women, including Mary, the mother of Jesus (John, 19: 25).
We are then told that Jesus uttered a cry. The evangelists differ as to what his last words were. Both Matthew and Mark say that he cried with a loud voice Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? "My God, my God: why hast Thou forsaken me?" (Matt., 27 : 46; Mark, 15 : 34). The ancient text of Mark current in the West makes Jesus also add:
"Why hast Thou put me to shame? " (Tucker, History of Christianity in the Light of Modern Knowledge, 258).
I pause to observe that the utterance was not an appeal from a beloved son to the Father. It was a cry of despair, the most poignant expression of the innermost feeling of a man in agony who could not but dread that even God had forsaken him and thus put him to shame. And why should Jesus have made this accusatory utterance, which must have come from his very heart? He did not wish to die, as his work was yet incomplete. The Kingdom he had foretold had yet to come. He could not understand why God, Who also knew that his work was still incomplete, had forsaken him and had not come to his help to enable him to complete his mission, and had allowed him to be stigmatised; for
"He that is hanged is accursed of God" (Deut., 21 : 23).
Jesus had told his disciples that:
"My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death" (Mark, 14: 34; Matt., 26 : 38).
And he had prayed:
"Abba, father, all things are possible unto Thee; take away this cup from me; nevertheless not what I will, but what Thou wilt" (Mark, 14: 36; Matt., 26 : 39; Luke, 22 : 42).
And according to Luke:
"And being in great agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke, 22 : 44).
Now, if Jesus knew that he was to die for the sins of others and that he would be raised again to sit on the right hand of God, why was he "sorrowful unto death," and why did he pray in "great agony" to God to "take away this cup" from him? The answers are too obvious. He did not know anything except that Jews were bent on condemning him to death and that according to Jewish belief, and his own belief as a Jew, if he died on the cross he would have died the death of an "accursed of God." That is why he was in great agony and prayed to God to take away this death from him. Did not God hear and accept this prayer of Jesus, one of His Prophets, or as Christians would have it, His only begotten son? No, say the Christians, for they make Jesus die on the cross. But, to me, it is inconceivable that his prayer could have possibly remained unanswered. Jesus in the sermon on the Mount had said:
"Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son asks bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks a fish, will he give him a serpent" (Matt., 7 : 7-10).
These pictorial illustrations, in view of the climax of the increasing urgency in ask seek knock, show that, according to Jesus, God will never mock an earnest suppliant by appearing to answer his prayer and giving him something noxious instead of the thing prayed for. Why should God have, therefore, caused Jesus to die on the cross and not deliver him from an accursed's death as prayed for by him. But we need not speculate, because Jesus himself had said:
"Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard me and I know that Thou hearest me always" (John, 11 : 41-42).
The prayer of Jesus was indeed heard by God, for Luke tells us that an angel of God visited him at that very time (Luke, 22 : 43). Paul, however, clinched the matter when he said:
"Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared" (Heb., 5 : 7).
If the prayer of Jesus was heard and granted, as it must have been, he could not have died on the cross. But if it was not heard and he was in fact crucified, this cry of Jesus, at a moment of extreme weakness of mind and the extreme limit of physical torture, is an everlasting answer to the blasphemous dogma of Christians that Jesus, the son of God, knew that in fulfilment of His Divine will, he was dying for the sins of others. Luke (Luke, 23 : 46), it is true, could not find this utterance compatible with the son-God theory, and therefore replaced it with a quotation from the Psalms (Ps., 31 : 5), but the Gospel of Peter as translated by Lake attributes the same utterance to Jesus (Lake, The Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus, 156). According to John, however, all that Jesus said was: "It is finished" (John, 19 : 30).
In this part of the narrative the most important question is the time when Jesus is supposed to have "yielded up his ghost," as it determines the period for which he was on the cross. According to Matthew and Mark it was about the ninth hour (3 p.m.) that Jesus complained of having been forsaken by God (Matt., 27 : 46; Mark, 15 : 34) and that it was shortly after this that he "yielded up the ghost." Mark gives us the time when Jesus was put on the cross as the third hour (9 a.m.) (Mark, 15: 25). Therefore, according to these two, Jesus was on the cross for six hours. Luke fixes the sixth hour as the time when Jesus "gave up the ghost." He also mentions that the darkness lasted from the sixth to the ninth hour (Luke, 23 : 44-46). On the other hand, John says that it was about the sixth hour (12.00 noon) that Pilate sat in judgement over Jesus (John, 19 : 14). Even if we assume that Jesus was put on the cross instantly after the sentence, Jesus could not have remained on the cross for more than three hours. Luke gives the same period: from the third hour (9 a.m.) to the sixth hour (12.00 noon).
The peculiar atrocity of crucifixion was that one could live for days in this horrible state upon this instrument of torture (Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible, 717). The body was fixed to the cross with ropes or nails through the hands. The victim's body was supported not only by the nail through the hands but by a small piece of wood projecting at right angles, a sedile, on which he sat as on a saddle. Sometimes there was also a support for the feet, to which the feet were nailed.
The bleeding from the hands and feet soon stopped and was never fatal. The real cause of death was the unnatural position of the body which brought on a frightful disturbance of the circulation, terrible pains in the head and heart and frequently rigidity of the limbs. Victims with normal constitutions died, after a few days, of exhaustion and hunger. The original idea of this cruel punishment was not directly to kill the culprit by positive injuries but to expose the victim, nailed by the hands of which he had neglected to make good use, and to let him rot on the cross. William Hanna in his Life of Christ asserts that a victim almost always survived the first day, lived generally over the second day and occasionally even up to the fifth or sixth day. On the authority of Captain Clapperton, who had witnessed such occurrences in the Soudan, he says that "the wretches on the cross generally linger three days before death puts an end to their suffering" (Hanna, The Life of Christ, Vol. 3 : 328-329). Similarly, Stroud, while speaking of many instances of those "who having been taken down in time and carefully treated, recovered and survived," says that in many cases death was partly caused by hunger and thirst, the vicissitudes of heat and cold, or the attacks of ravenous birds and beasts and in others was designedly accelerated by burning, stoning or breaking the bones (Stroud, On the Physical Cause of Death of Christ, 55).
The ordinary suffering incidental to crucifixion have been minutely analysed by Ritcher, the Batholines, the Grunners and others. Some of their explorations are rather fanciful and overstrained, e.g. in their laborious attempts to prove that for some time before his supposed death Jesus was reduced to a state of extreme debility, they strongly insist on the accessory or subordinate sufferings of crucifixion as materially accelerating his death. But an impartial scrutiny of the facts makes their insufficiency obvious. Stroud says:
"The scourging, mockery and labour of carrying the cross were not in themselves more distressing to Jesus than to the malefactors who accompanied him; his fasting and watching had not, at farthest, continued longer than from the preceding evening; his removal from place to place was not likely to be attended with much fatigue, since all the places lay within a narrow compass; and heat of climate could not have been very oppressive in Jerusalem at the vernal equinox to a native of the country; more especially when it is considered that, during the last three hours of his life, from the sixth to the ninth hour, the sun was obscured, and that in the much hotter climate of Central Africa crucified persons usually live three days on the cross" (Stroud, On the Physical Cause of Death of Christ, 123, 124).
Those who assert that Jesus had not died on the cross cite many instances of persons crucified who, removed in time, had been brought to life by energetic treatment (The instances are cited by Paulus, Exeg, Handb., 3b: S.781; Wiser, Bible Realworteb, 1: S. 672; and Hass. S. 144). One such instance of a crucified man has been mentioned by Josephus, and renders conceivable a resuscitation in the case of Jesus also. He says that of three crucified acquaintances of his, whose release he begged of Titus Caesar, one survived. How long this man had been on the cross Josephus does not say, but from the manner in which he connects the man with his expedition to Thakoah, by stating that he saw this man on his return from there, this man must have been crucified during this expedition; and as this, in view of the trifling distance of this place from Jerusalem, might possibly be achieved in a day, this man had hung on the cross for a day at least.
It cannot too often be pointed out that Jesus was a Jew, and as such his body had to be removed from the cross before nightfall because:
"His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God); that thy land be not defiled " (Deut., 21 : 23).
We also know that in view of the approach of the Sabbath "executions lasting until late in the afternoon were impossible (Sifre, 2 : 221), and, therefore, "the body could not have been removed as late as the ninth hour" (The Jewish Ency., Vol. 4, 374).
Whether it was for this reason or that the next day after the crucifixion was the Sabbath, and a Sabbath of peculiar solemnity, the Jews expressed to the Procurator their desire that this holy day should not be profaned by such a spectacle. Their request was granted and orders were given to remove the three condemned ones and to hasten their death. The soldiers executed these orders by applying to the two thieves the crurifragium and broke their legs, but to Jesus they did not think it necessary as "they thought him to be dead" (Renan, History of the Origin of Christianity, Book 1 : 246). They could not, however, be certain as Jesus had remained on the cross only for about three hours. That death had not overcome Jesus is evident from the facts that the two malefactors were still alive when taken off the cross and Jesus had strength enough to utter a loud cry immediately before the moment which is regarded as his last. At that moment there must have prevailed a good deal of confusion particularly because of the alleged peculiar events which followed: the veil of the temple was rent in twain, the earth did quake, rocks were rent, graves were opened and many bodies of dead saints arose and came out of the graves and went into the city and appeared unto many (Matt., 27 : 51-53). (It is noteworthy that almost all the Prophets who had preceded Jesus were buried in Jerusalem. They must have also arisen from their graves and borne testimony that the son of God had been crucified and yet the Roman soldiers, the hard-hearted Jews and the wretched disciples of Jesus, the Gospels tell us, were not convinced.) Further, there was a darkness from the sixth hour (12.00 noon) to the ninth hour (3 p.m.) (Matt., 27 : 45; Mark, 15 : 33; Luke, 23 : 44) the like of which had not been seen before. It was so intense that even the sun was darkened (Luke, 23 : 45), or in other words the sun ceased to be visible to the naked eye, and thus there was hardly any visibility left. (Such an occurrence, undoubtedly, as an eclipse of the Sun for three hours, is neither known to history nor can it admit of any scientific explanation. The duration of time for which it is supposed to have occurred is not only incredible but impossible. Further, an eclipse of the Sun can never occur on the 14th or 15th of a lunar month.) In these circumstances, when confusion prevailed all around, the body of Jesus was removed from the cross during the day, that is, during the daytime, in compliance with the commands of the Old Testament to which I have already made a reference.
At this stage John mentions two incidents. I have already referred to the fact that the bones of Jesus were not broken. This according to John was not through any inadvertence:
"For these things were done, that the Scriptures should be fulfilled: A bone of him shall not be broken" (John, 19 : 36; cf. Ps., 34: 20).
The fulfilment of this prophecy could only be beneficial if Jesus was alive, otherwise prevention of the breaking of the bones of a dead body would be devoid of any sense.
The second incident mentioned by John is even more remarkable. He says that:
"One of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side and forthwith came there out blood and water" (John, 19 : 34).
In the very next verse John represents that:
"He that saw it bare record, and his record is true and he knoweth that he sanh true, that ye might believe. "
It is not curious that, realising the difficulty which such an event would present to the Christian belief, the early Church Fathers, whose dishonesty and unscrupulousness have no parallel in human history and who never hesitated to tell lies or commit forgeries for the glory of their son-god, expunged an identical passage from Matthew. This passage now appears in the margin of verse 49 of Chapter 27 of the Revised Version (E 1096).
The compilers of this Version note that, to this verse, many ancient authorities add:
"And another took a spear and pierced his side and there came out water and blood. "
The "blood and water" incident is also mentioned in one of the Epistles (1 John, 5 : 6).
Many Christian writers have tried to challenge the correctness of this incident. But, I think, it is sufficient to mention that Jesus could not have asked Thomas:
"Reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side" (John, 20 : 27),
if his side had not been pierced.
Before I take up the narrative, I think it would not be out of place to refer to a book which first appeared in America in 1873: The Crucifixion by an Eye-witness. This book is an English translation of an ancient Latin copy of a "letter written seven years after the crucifixion by a personal friend of Jesus in Jerusalem to an Essene Brother in Alexandria." In this book the events leading to the crucifixion, the scenes at Calvary and what took place subsequently were narrated in great detail. This book was withdrawn from circulation the moment it was published. All the copies were collected and burnt. "All the plates were destroyed, and it was supposed that all the published copies of the book were likewise disposed of - the official copies which were deposited with the Librarian of the Congress, in compliance with the Laws of Copyright, also disappeared. Fortunately, one copy escaped this fate." It was republished in 1907, after it had been compared with the Latin manuscript which still exists in Germany. "This old parchment was found in a house in Alexandria, the house, it has been proved by archaeological discoveries, belonged to the Order of the Essenes. It was written by a Therapeut, the highest esteemed member of the Order." In this book we are told that:
"One of the soldiers struck his spear into the body in such a manner that it passed over the hip and into the side. The body showed no convulsions, and this was taken by the centurion as a sure sign that he (Jesus) was actually dead, and he hurriedly went away to make his report (to Pilate).
But concerning the wound itself, it may have been on the right or left side of the body and in any spot from the shoulder to the hip. Some have suggested that it was the pericardium which had been pierced; but for this to have happened the pierced spot would have to be in front of the chest and not on the side. Leaving these uncertainties aside, the fact remains that blood and water came out, and this can be taken as a sure sign that death had not yet taken place. It has been suggested that the blood as soon as it ceases to take part in the vital process begins to divide itself into plasma and serum, and that the separation of the blood from the water was a proof of Jesus' real death. To this I will give an answer presently. Again, it has been suggested that in case of nervous fever and suffocation the blood retains its fluidity in the corpse. But there is no justification for alleging that Jesus died of any fever and the question of suffocation must be ruled out by the fact that Jesus was able to utter a loud cry at the last. It has also been urged that within one hour of death the blood does not coagulate in the vessels. But surely it must have taken more than an hour for the Jews to have gone to Pilate and to return with his orders. Further, if the spear had struck one of the larger vessels, blood alone would have come out, and if he had already been dead over an hour and his corpse was in ordinary state, nothing at all would have come out, because plasma and serum are not separated in the vessels of a corpse as they do in a basin in which bloodletting is done. After taking all these facts into consideration and on good medical authority the compilers of the Encyclopaedia Biblica have to admit that Jesus was in fact alive when this wound was inflicted, for they say:
"From the critical point of view we can hardly say that the fact that Jesus received the wound after he had breathed his last is well established" (Ency. Biblica, Art. Cross, Col. 960).
In the face of these facts even Dean Farrar had to concede that when the Roman soldier thrust the broad head of the hasta in the side of Jesus, "he might be only in a syncope" (Farrar, Life of Christ, 421), and Jesus, who only appeared to be dead, had in fact fallen into a comatose state.
It may be repeated that the short time Jesus was on the cross, three hours at the most, and the uncertain nature and effect of the wound from the spear, and the coming out of the blood and water from his body leave no room for any doubt that Jesus did not die on the cross. If the soldiers and others present, in the circumstances already mentioned, thought him to be dead, it was because they could not distinguish between a deep swoon and the rigidity of syncope from real death. There is no ground for the suggestion that amongst them was anyone who was acquainted with medical science, which itself was in a low state in that age.
That there was doubt about Jesus' death at that very time is clear from the Gospels. Dean Farrar also refers to the assertion of the Docetic sect of Gnostics that Jesus only seemed to have died (Ibid., 424). Tertullian had his own doubts, so had Origen, and he had to invoke a miracle to explain so sudden an end. But the fact that people at that very time doubted his death can be gathered from the surprise of Pilate (Mark, 15: 44). Besides, the questions put by him to the centurion show that he wished to silence the doubts of his contemporaries. But the narrative of Matthew itself mentions an event which puts the matter beyond all doubt. After Jesus' body had been placed in the sepulchre the Pharisees came together to Pilate and asked him:
"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).
The same version is given in the Gospel of Peter (Gospel of Peter, 2 : 8). Now, what was this first error? Not that they had accused Jesus and found him guilty of "corruption," not that at their instance he had been sentenced to death by Pilate; not that he had been put on the cross. No, they believed Jesus to be a pretender and a false prophet: and, therefore, they could not have had any compassion for him. The first error could not, therefore, be any other than that Jesus had been taken off the cross much earlier than was necessary, that his bones had not been broken and as a result of these Jesus had not been, according to them, in fact "crucified" at all. This and this alone was the first error which would become insignificant if the apprehensions of the Jews should materialise. They, therefore, prayed that the sepulchre should be made secure and sealed so that even if buried alive Jesus should remain there and die of suffocation. They in fact, in the narrative, express their apprehensions in quite unambiguous terms:
"Lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, he has risen from the dead" (Matt., 27 : 64).
The Pharisees did not believe in his miracles; they did not admit his Divine origin or mission, they did not even acknowledge him as the Messiah. They, therefore, could not attribute a belief to the people that, if the body was stolen and the sepulchre found empty, any one would believe that Jesus had arisen from the dead. To them, with the traditions of the Old Testament regarding raising of the dead, the securing and sealing of the tomb would have been no safeguard. It is evident, therefore, that the Pharisees and the Elders knew that through unforeseen circumstances Jesus had not died on the cross and they wanted to ensure his death by sealing and securing the tomb to prevent all possibility of his body being stolen or otherwise removed. Events regarding the burial and the subsequent visits of the women to the sepulchre, to which I will refer in detail shortly, also point to the same conclusion.
There is one very peculiar feature about the alleged death of Jesus on the cross: nowhere in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is the positive statement of an eye-witness recorded that Jesus had died on the cross, or that he was dead when they removed him from the cross or placed in the tomb. None of the disciples was present on the spot. The Jews, as we have already seen, had their own doubts. The evangelists clearly felt the weakness of their evidence. They, therefore, were compelled to introduce the women:
"Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him, and many other women which came up with him into Jerusalem" (Mark, 15: 41).
They are supposed to have watched what was happening from afar, but then the real object was to guarantee by their presence the truth of what had already been, and still more of what had to be, added to the description of the scenes at Calvary. The guarantee appears to be singularly fragile as soon as we begin to examine it. No doubt, it becomes less dubious and doubtful when compared with the Johannine scheme where the object of the women, with the unknown beloved disciples, was to receive the last instructions which fell from Jesus (John, 19 : 25), but it represents the same anxiety to establish a testimony and is, of course, a later addition. As a matter of fact, early tradition, with or without guarantee of women, was not in a position to do anything more than assert the essential facts: Jesus was arrested, tried, condemned and put on the cross; of that alone they were certain. They could not and did not in clear and unambiguous terms assert his death on the cross because "the matter was made dubious to them" (The Holy Quran, 4 : 157).
in Heaven on Earth [Journey of Jesus to
Kashmir, his preaching to the Lost Tribes of Israel
and death and burial in Srinagar] by Khwaja
> Chapter 10: Crucifixion (of Jesus