« AnteriorContinuar »
verent. Luke says, ix. 45, “They understood not this saying, and it was hid from them.”
But this may be merely his own reflection, and the explanation which he chose to suggest in order to account for the strangeness of the disciples' conduct. The explanation, however, is by no means satisfactory, since the language attributed to Jesus is very intelligible.
Immediately after the supposed confidential prediction of his sufferings to the twelve, Matt. xx. 20, two of these very twelve come to ask for seats on the right and left of his throne. They all frequently dispute which shall be the greatest. They seem full of hope and expectation until they reach Jerusalem. They think more of their twelve thrones over the twelve tribes of Israel than of death and suffering. When nigh to Jerusalem, they expect the kingdom of God to appear immediately; and when, at last, Jesus is taken and put to death, exactly according to the supposed predictions, they all seem taken by surprise, and forsake him. Cleopas is represented as saying, “The chief priests and our rulers have crucified him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel;" shewing clearly surprise and disappointment at his death, which seemed to have ended the matter. They were so far from expecting him to rise again, that most of them were with difficulty induced to believe it, even when they were told that he was risen. And John himself unconsciously gives a final contradiction to these stories of predictions, by saying of the disciples who came to the sepulchre, xx. 9, “ For as yet they knew not the scriptures, that he must rise again from the dead.” Can it be believed that any of the disciples, much less the whole body of them, would have quite forgotten such a thing, if it had really been foretold to them so clearly and so often?
This discrepancy between the disciples' conduct and the supposed predictions is so palpable, that fiction
appears manifestly in one or the other. And it is the more natural to infer it in the latter; for the disciples loved to represent every action of Jesus as the fulfilment of prophecy, and especially his death, by which means the greatest cause of scandal was converted into an evidence in his favour. As he himself also bore the character of a prophet, nothing could appear more for his honour and dignity than to predict whatever was remarkable in his own career; for thus reverses and death, instead of baffling him, appeared as ministers to the fulfilment of his own predictions
The charm of marvellousness which is thrown into a narrative by linking events with predictions induced Herodotus, Josephus, and other historians prone to embellish, to indulge largely in this kind of poetical fiction. The writers of the four gospels had a stronger temptation to put their own historical knowledge into the mouth of Jesus in the shape of prophecy; and accordingly numerous events in the history of Jesus are preceded by a closely agreeing prediction; for instance, the denial by Peter, the betrayal by Judas, the finding of the colt, the selection of the room for the passover; a few circumstances being added to make the accounts coherent, such as any writer of tolerable imagination might have supplied. Gradual exaggeration rather than wilful fiction might, however, in many cases, explain the manner in which the account originated. For example, it appears, from the reproaches of the multitude, that Jesus had said, “ Destroy this temple, and in three days I will build it again.” John sees in this, after the event, a prediction by Jesus of his own death and resurrection; and it is easy to imagine that, in passing through several narrations, it might have been enlarged into as complete a prophecy as that in Matt. xx. 17.
On the other hand, the contemplation by Jesus of his own death is mingled in so many ways with his sayings and actions after his last departure from Galilee, and the institution of the last supper is so standing a memorial of his having in some degree foreseen it, that there seems to be some mixture of truth in the above narratives.
The most probable conclusion appears to be, that Jesus began to contemplate the possibility of his death, when he found himself compelled, by the ill-will of Herod, to leave Galilee, and that he began then to warn his followers that no one who was unprepared to risk his life was fit for the kingdom of God; that after his arrival at Jerusalem it became daily more evident to him that he must suffer as a seditious innovator, and that his last discourses contained many anticipations of his approaching fate.
It is evident that he could not have given any clear announcement on this subject whilst in Galilee, because up to the time of his arrival at Jerusalem the disciples expected that the kingdom of God would immediately appear. They continued to expect a temporal throne even much later. Some occasional and ambiguous hints dropped by him concerning the dangers to be expected at Jerusalem, being remembered after his death, might have given rise to the belief that he spake of his death “when he was yet in Galilee,” Luke xxiv. 6. Also, the style of some real discourses shortly before his death may have been transposed to occasions much earlier. For it appears very clear that none of the Evangelists had much regard to the order of time or place in relating the discourses of Jesus. There was no reporter at hand to take down these discourses as they were delivered. They must have been repeated by the disciples from memory, and could have been preserved only by tradition, until some one undertook to write them down. Whilst this loose method of preserving them prevailed, the sayings of Jesus were probably much altered, and accommodated to the new ideas which became prevalent in the church. It is not unlikely even that many sayings gradually became current as his, which never proceeded from him in any shape. During the interval of nearly forty years between his death and the writing of Matthew's gospel, the Christian church had become familiarized to the idea that his death happened in fulfilment of prophecy, and was contemplated by himself as part of his mission. It was very natural, then, for an advocate of the sect, at the latter period, to represent Jesus himself as preaching in accordance with these notions.
The following is also an indication of fiction in the language attributed to Jesus on this subject. He is made to say, Matt. xii. 40, "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.” But Jesus was in the tomb only from Friday night until Sunday morning, or one day and two nights. An inspired prophet could not have made this mistake; but Matthew might easily have overlooked it in the eagerness of writing. Jonas appeared to him so good a type of Christ, that he did not think it worth while to calculate exactly. Mark perceived, probably, the absurdity, since he has omitted the allusion to Jonas. Luke has preserved it, wording it so as to avoid the more glaring part of the inconsistency. Luke xi. 30, “For as Jonas was a sign to the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of Man be to this generation.”*
* In the Gemara there is much discussion concerning the duration of the three oune (noctiduum) allowed for ceremonial uncleanness. There was a tradition that R. Eliezer ben Azariah had said, “A day and a night make up the oune, and a part is as the whole;" with which R. Ismael agreed. But R. Jochanan and Akiba said, that either a day or a night constituted an oune.See Lightfoot. The difficulty of determining the point seems to shew that Eliezer's method of calculation was not in common use. The only argument brought by Rosenmüller in favour of such a supposition is, that the Apostles did not encounter objections from the Jews on this subject.
ON THE CHARACTER, VIEWS, AND DOCTRINE OF CHRIST.
The histories which have come down to us of the life of Christ are scanty, and, as has been shewn, in all probability much mixed with fable and with the ideas of later times. Still they present to us a character so peculiar and so strongly marked, as to force upon us the impression that it was a real one. Even though the supposition that there never was such a person as Jesus Christ were not manifestly absurd in an historical view, the existence of the books before us might be sufficient to convince us that it must be abandoned; for invention generally falls into some well-known track of ideas; and it is in the highest degree improbable that several writers could concur in an accordant and well-sustained delineation of a singular, but yet wholly imaginary, character. The attentive perusal of the four Gospels leaves, then, the conviction, that Jesus really lived; and, further, that there was in him a combination of traits which do not frequently meet in the same individual, the result being a character which has few or no parallels in history. It has been often said that this singularity of character does itself afford an evidence of the divinity of his mission. But the inference is unwarrantable, unless it can be proved that the character contains something necessarily superhuman; whereas it may, perhaps, be shewn that each feature of it is resolvable into the operation of feelings and powers common, more or less, to all men, influenced by the circumstances in which he was placed. The supernatural character and offices attributed to Jesus have generally prevented Christians from examining this