Hermann Marcus Kottinger.

The youth's liberal guide for their moral culture and religious enlightenment online

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hitherto." Pilate perseveres in his first inconceivable sentenc2, declares again
Jesus to be innocent, and tries to set him free. To this end he avails himself of
the custom to release to the Jews a captive on Passover, and permits them to
choose Jesus or Barabbas, who had been arrested on account of sedition and
murder. As they demand the latter, Pilate still takes all pains to dispose them
in favor of Jesus. He asks them : " But what must I do with Jesus ? " They
cry : " Crucify him ! " In order to excite their sympathy, he orders him flogged*
and presents him to them covered with blood. But ^hey only cry more enraged :
" Crucify him ! " Pilate always continues to insist upon saving him ; he deems
him still to be guiltless. Finally, they threaten to accuse him as an enemy of the
Emperor, and repeat their impeachment, saying : " He who makes himself a
King is against the Emperor," Pilate at last pronounces the sentence of death,
but at the same time he declares solemnly by washing his hands in the presence of


the people, that he is guiltless of the death of Jesus. It is impossible to com-
prehend the proceedings of Pilate, as they have been stated, thus far ; he could
not have acted in that way, he could and dared, not act so as a Roman, and as
the substitute of the Emperor. John probably perceived this inconsistency ;
therefore he lets Jesus also answer Pilate's question : " Art thou the King of
the Jews ?" in the affirmative, but by additiot^the explanation : " My kingdom
is not from hence," to wit, it is a reign of truth. In this sense considered,
Jesus must be to him a mere teacher, therefore appear innocent. The source
from which this representation of the evangelists has emanated, is their attempt
to lay the guilt of the execution of Jesus alone to the charge of ihe Jews and
their leaders, and to burden the Jews with it for all times and generations.

10. Crucifixion of Jesus.

The sentence of the Governor is immediately executed: Jesus is crucified.
Usually the hands of the criminals who were crucitied, were extended upon the
cross and fastened with nails. The crucifixion was one of the most cruel kinds
of death man has ever suffered. The place of execution was called Golgotha;
it is unknown where it was. Before the execution they offered Jesus wine of
myrrhs or vinegar, mixed with gall. The first usually was presented to such
criminals, because it contained a narcotic power. They say that Jesus refused
the beverage. The soldiers are said to have parted his clothes among them-
selves, by casting lots. By virtue of the Roman law the garments of the execu-
ted criminals indeed belonged to the executioners ; but may be, this incident,
too, originated from a Psalm (22), where it reads : "They parted my raiment
among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots." The coat was without
seam, woven from the top throughout. The narrators recollected the woven coat
worn by the high priest, according to the Mosaic law ; for they deemed Jesus to
be the high priest of the New Testament. On the cross, according to the
Roman custom, an inscription was fastened, and read : " Jesus, King of the
Jews." It was written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. With Jesus two criminals
were crucified ; one on his right, the other on his left hand. This circumstance
was again prognosticated, as the evangelists pretend, by the passage : " He was
computed with criminals " (Is. 53). One of them declares Jesus to be innocent,
therefore he is promised Paradise. The bystanders, among whom also the
priests and elders were seen, insult and revile him, wagging their heads; but he
prays for them, saying : " Father, forgive them ; they do not know what they are
doing." So in that Psalm also it is said : " All who see me, insult me, and wag
their heads." Such conduct as this laid to the charge of the people Jesus had
not offended, is against human nature ; it is also not probable that the high
clergy would have been present at the death of their enemy, only to the end to
satisfy their vindictiveness. It is more likely that the evangelists accused the
people, and their leaders of this almost diabolical barbarity, because from their


indignation they believed them to be prone to commit any, even the worst mis-
deed. John also reports that Mary and "the disciple whom Jesus loved"
namely himself) weie standing close to the cross, and that Jesus recommended
to the disciple to take care of Mary as of his own mother. But Luke says posi-
tively that the women who were devoted to Jesus, and his other acquaintances,
stood afar from the cross.

Shortly before Jesus expired, he spoke some other words, as all evangelists
state, namely : " Eli, Eli, (to wit, my God, my God) why didst thou forsake
me?" "I am thirsty!" "Father, in thy hands I commend my spirit !" "It
is consummated!" The executioners mistook the cry of Jesus: Eli, Eli,
meaning that he called the prophet Elias. One of them ran to fill a sponge
with vinegar, and presented it to the dying man. As they were likely Romans,
and therefore the name Elias could not be familiar to them, this incident also
turns very suspicious. All those words are taken from that Psalm (22), and
from other prophetic passages. Therefore, it is uncertain if Jesus spoke even one
of those "seven words" on the cross, as they call them. Who did hear them?
The women and friends of Jesus, who alone could be witnesses, stood (as we
remarked already) too far away to be able to hear them. The evangelists
difter entirely in the report of the words spoken by Jesus; none has them all;
who has the genuine ones? One states this, another that sentence to be the last.
Such discrepancies cannot at all be reconciled. Think only of the horrible
situation of a crucified man, struggling with the pangs of death; such an one
certainly never was in the humor to utter many words; at the most he ejaculates
single woeful accents.

Three evangelists relate yet extraordinary phenomena which accompanied the
death of Jesus ; John knows nothing about them. From 12 to 3 o'clock (from 6 to
9, according to Jewish horology) darkness reigned over the whole country (it was
therefore a solar eclipse); as Jesus expired, the curtain of the temple rent in twain
from the top to the bottom (in order to symbolize the end of Judaism), an earth-
quake shook the ground, the rocks rent, the tombs opened, many corpses of the
saints arose, and appeared to many inhabitants in the city. This account con-
tradicts the laws of nature too grossly, and is, indeed, too absurd to need a
special proof of its untruth. Suffice it to remark that other writers of that time
let the death of great men, e. g., of Julius Ci^sar, be accompanied by earthquakes,
solar eclipses and other similar miracles.

When Jesus had expired, Joseph of Arimathia, a rich man and counsellor,
buries him. He requests the corpse from Pilate, wraps it in clean linen cloth,
puts it " in his new grave, which he had hewn out in the rocks, and rolls a large
stone before the entry." вАФ (Matth.) To the con traiy, John reports that in the
place of execution there was a garden, and in the garden a new sepulchre; that
Jesus was Iniried in this, because haste was needed, and the grave was close at
hand. Thereby it is evident that John did not believe the tomb to be Joseph's


property. He states also that one hundred pounds of myrrhs and aloe were
procured for the sake of embalming the coipse (!).

What is, then, the result of the investigation regarding the death of Jesus ?
That we know nothing with certainty about it but that it was caused by
crucifixion. This result is very natural, as hardly any of his followers were
present at the execution. How could it be, otherwise, that the reporters gainsay
each other in such a degree? If his partisans had been present as witnesses, the
dreadful scenes of the bloody tragedy must have rooted so deeply in their mem-
ory that such contradictions and hallucinations had become impossible. Probably
they did not know more about it themselves than we. They borrowed the
materials of their traditions, likely, from the Old Testament, especially from
Isaiah (ch. 53), where the prophet says: "He was despised and forsaken by
men; but he loaded our pains upon himself; he was wounded on account of our
sins. He did not open his mouth, like the lamb which is led to the shambles.
They assigned him his grave with blasphemers, though he had not committed
any wrong," etc. It was natural, and could not fail coming, that the disciples of
Jesus tried to form themselves a definite image of the sufferings and death of
their highly venerated Messiah, and adorned the real event with wonderful
touches. The Ancient Testament assfsted their efforts. Another reason of their
exaggerations was their desire to prove thereby that Jesus has offered the most
stupendous sacrifice for the sins of the world.

The hour and day of the execution is also differently stated by the evangelists.
Mark writes that the crucifixion of Jesus commenced at nine o'clock in the
forenoon, and that he died at three o'clock p, m. According to John, Pilate at
twelve o'clock is still sitting on the tribunal. According to the three older
Gospels, Jesus ate yet the paschal lamb with his disciples, and was executed the
day afterward. The paschal lamb was considered by the Jews as a sacrifice, and
was always eaten the evening before the Easter. But the first and the last day of
the festival were to them the most holy ones ; therefore it is difficult to believe
that on the first day of the Passover criminals were executed. John deemed
Jesus to be the truly sacred and divine paschal lamb ; therefore he let the cruci-
fixion coincide with the slaughter of the Jewish paschal lamb. For that reason
he also reports that the bones of Jesus, just like those of the paschal lamb, were
not fractured. Consequently, according to his report, the execution of Jesus
happened one day sooner than as stated by the other evangelists. Nay, it is even
possible that it took place neither on the one nor the other of these two days, but
either in the middle of the Easter week, or in general about Easter-time. So we
perceive again here the great unsafeness of the evangelical reports. Matthew
and John are said to have been witnesses of this event; nevertheless the day of
death of Jesus, which of all days of his life must have been deepest inculcated
to their memory, and which, if it happened near the Passover, obtained a firmer
hold even by this incident; not so much as this day, the most important and most
impressive for the mind and creed of his followers, is stated to the same date in


the Gospels ! The year, in which the execution of Jesus occurred is also utterly

11. His EesTirrection and Ascension.

The Gospels mention a resurrection of Jesus, which, as they say, happened
three days after his death. This statement is untrue, for they all report that it
chanced already the second morning after the execution of Jesus, after having
rested in the grave two nights and one day, consequently about thirty-six hours.
The contradictions in the account of this event are even more numerous than in
any other. All evangelists indeed agree in the circumstance that those who re-
ceived first the news of the resurrection, were women. But according to the
one there were two; according to the other, three women; according to the third,
only one. One states that the stone was rolled oft in the presence of the women,
another that they found it already removed. According to the one the angels
address^the women at their first, according to the other at their second visit of
the grave ; these mention one, those two angels. The words spoken by the
angels are related in a very different way by the different evangelists. Accord-
ing to some, the women announce immediately the apparition, according to an
other they keep silence, etc. From one we learn that Jesus sent word to the
disciples to go to Galilee, from another that he forbade them to leave Jerusalem.
In one evangel he appears to the disciples twice, in another three times, in
John's four times; in one he appears in Galilee on a mountain, in two others in
Jerusalem, in the fourth at the lake of Genesareth. The reports gainsay also
each other with regard to the manner of his appearance. On the one hand he
represents himself exactly in his former shape ; the marks of the nails are left
on his hands and feet, and the scar of the side wound ; he permits to be
touched, in order to prove that he is no spectre, and he eats in the presence of
his disciples. On the other hand he appears ghost-like ; his friends do not rec-
ognize him ; Mary Magdalen first takes him to be the gardener, and at a sudden
he appears, in spite of the locked doors, in the midst of the assembled disciples,
refusing to eat and to be touched. The words he addressed to them at the
several apparitions, are of very different kind in the several Gospels. Finally,
neither the reports of the Acts of the Apostles and of the Apostle Paul agree
with the Gospels ; as to the former, Jesus appeared to the disciples yet during
40 days (therefore surely oftener than four times), and Paul enumerates five ap-
paritions. The myth of the resurrection is an evident proof, how arbitrarily the
writers of the New Testament modeled and remodeled their stories, according as
it suited their particular purposes.

What can have occasioned the belief in the resurrection of Jesus ? Paul lets
us guess the reason of its origin; he says (2 Cor. 12) that he has had a vision
of Jesus, having been transported to the third heaven (without being able to tell
whether in or out of the body). Experience teaches that some men imagine
they have seen their defunct friends appearing to them. It may be that the


women, the feelings of whom are more irritable, first thought to see their dead
friend, and that their example induced also the disciples to such visions ; enthusi-
asm is contagious. The character of Jesus had affected so deeply their
minds that they could not forget him so soon ; his image was present to their
eyes more liyely as he was torn from their side by a horrid death. In later
times the narratives of the Gospels might have been founded on such imaginary
apparitions, and adorned as their authors pleased to do. They admit also
themselves that some remained doubting the reality of the visions, till to the last
moment, when Jesus ascended to Heaven. One of them was Thomas, the
Apostle, who afterwards was called the incredulous.

Some believe that Jesus was only lying in a deep swoon, being apparently
dead, when buried ; that, in the grave, he awoke again, and found a secret asy-
lum with friends. This supposition is very improbable, for it happened very
seldom that crucified persons revived after having been taken from the cross.
Among the Jews of that time the rumor was also rife that the disciples had stolen
the corpse during the night, and then spread the report of the resurrection of
Jesus. (Matth., 28, 11, etc.)

The ascension of Jesus is mentioned by Mark, Luke, and by the Acts of the
Apostles. Mark lets him ascend when he is taking his repast (consequently
indoors), while the others say he ascended in Bethania, from a mountain top.
Luke reports (ch. 29) that Jesus ascended on the same day he rose from the
dead ; the Acts relate that he conversed yet during forty days after his rising
with his disciples, and then add : " A cloud took him away from the sight of
the disciples, and two men stood with them in white robes, saying: ' Why do
you stand here, gazing up into the heaven ? This Jesus who in your presence
has been taken up to Heaven, will so come again as you have seen him.' "
Natural science and experience prove that a body which is heavier than air,
cannot be elevated by itself in this element ; but as Elias was said to have
ascended, the Christians may have derived their fable from that. Greeks and
Romans, too, had the superstition that men who were favorites of the gods had
been taken to their Olymp ; so, e. g., Hercules and Romulus.

These are the principal narratives the Gospels have communicated to us from
the life of Jesus. He who attentively and impartially examines them, must be
persuaded that they are altogether pious fictions. What do we, then, know of the
life of Jesus with certainty ? Very little ; only about the following incidents : He
was born in Nazareth, a town of Galilee. His father was a carpenter; the
name of his mother was Mary. According to the unanimous testimony of the
Gospels, he had several brothers ; but these, and his mother, too, seem to have
disliked the idea of his making the appearance as a prophet. John says dis-
tinctly (7, I) that his brothers did not believe in him. They and Mary are said
to have joined his adherents only after his death (Acts, I, 14), He passed
through the country as a wandering teacher, where he proclaimed the approach-
ing kingdom of the Messiah, and gathered many scholars. Finally he went


with them to Jerusalem, and there was put to death as a lalse Messiah, who bad

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Online LibraryHermann Marcus KottingerThe youth's liberal guide for their moral culture and religious enlightenment → online text (page 21 of 28)